The first strategy is to shift the focus to the number of hospitalizations and hospital capacity in New York state. In addition to the yellow, orange and red zone designations, the state will also track the hospitalization rate, death rate, case rate, available hospital beds, available ICU beds, and available staff, stress on the staff, and available PPE.
“If the numbers continue to increase you will see serious stress on the hospital system,” Cuomo said.
If the system is overwhelmed, the governor is adding an emergency stop. That’s the ability for him to call a NY Pause as a zone modification.
The New York State Department of Health is initiating Emergency Hospital Procedures including:
1) Staff Shortage: Identify retired nurses and doctors NOW
2) Stop elective surgery – Erie County as of Friday
3) Indiv hospital network load balancing mandated (ie. Northwell, Montefiore, ECMC, URMC, Kaleida, H+H) NOW
4) Prepare emergency field hospitals
5) Hospitals plan to add 50% bed capacity
6) Prepare to implement statewide “surge and flex”
7) Prepare to staff emergency field hospitals
8) Confirm PPE stockpile in place
The state is launching a hospital capacity emergency tracking system to monitor the metrics.
The second strategy is testing. Governor Cuomo said that the state is working to increase the gross amount of testing while ensuring a balanced distribution.
The third strategy is to keep schools open safely. The governor said the state is focusing on special education and K-8 students. Testing will be done on a weekly basis in orange and red zones, but they must reach more than 20% in a month in orange zones and 30% in a month in red zones. Pool testing will be allowed. Local districts can increase testing. Local districts can close at levels under the state mandatory closure rule, but the state advice is to keep K-8 schools open whenever safe.
The fourth strategy is that small gathering spread is now the number one cause of COVID cases in 65% of all cases. The state will begin a public education campaign warning residents on small gatherings.
The fifth strategy is the vaccination program. “We’re going to be very robust on the vaccination program,” Cuomo said.
Vaccine delivery could start in the next few weeks and will be balanced on the pillars of fairness, equity, and safety. The state also will aim to be inclusive in the process by offering outreach to Black, Brown, and poor communities. The vaccine for the critical mass is still “months away,” the governor said. Until the vaccine reaches critical mass, the state will keep operating the economy at a maximum safe level and will continue to push for a federal response.
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