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COVID-19: Hospitals Close To Capacity Statewide, New Shutdown Is Possible, Cuomo Says

A look at the increase in hospitalizations in five regions in the state, including Long Island and the Hudson Valley. Photo Credit: New York State
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York is on the rise. Photo Credit:

Hospitals in New York could be at a crossroads as the number of COVID-19 patients continues to spike to levels not seen since the height of the pandemic in the spring.

And now, the problem is statewide, and not just in the downstate region

During a COVID-19 briefing in Manhattan on Monday, Nov. 30, Gov. Andrew Cuomo cautioned that changes in behavior among New Yorkers have led to a second wave of the virus that threatens to overwhelm hospital systems.

Cuomo made note that the current COVID-19 hospitalization numbers are nearly quadruple what the state was reporting as recently as June.

“Before we’re even feeling the effects of the holiday season, we’re seeing a rise in hospitalizations all across the state,” he said. “And it’s not a situation where it is only happening in one part of the state and we can shift resources from one part of the state to the other.

“We’re going to have a limited ability to bring resources from upstate to downstate, or downstate to upstate like we did in the spring,” he added. “Literally every region is dealing with a hospital issue now.”

Cuomo said that he is concerned about potential staff shortages, and that hospital systems should begin recruiting retired nurses and doctors to help frontline workers in combating COVID-19.

Cuomo also said that some hospitals will be halting elective surgeries, preparing emergency field hospital plans, and were ordered to begin balancing their patient loads as part of a statewide “surge and flex” plan.

“This is a new battlefield … hospital capacity is the top concern … it’s all about hospital beds and ICU beds and having enough staff and equipment,” he added. “We’re now worried about overwhelming the hospital system, and if those numbers continue to increase, you will see serious stress on the hospital system.”

During his briefing, Cuomo also noted that hospitals that don’t balance their patient loads will be investigated by the state for malpractice.

“It’s mandatory that as of today (the hospitals) balance their patient load within their system,” the governor said. “Distribute the patients among all the hospitals in your system.

“This is a mandate from the state Department of Health so that no one hospital gets overwhelmed, “Cuomo added. “No patient wants to be in an overwhelmed hospital getting less care. The staff is stretched thin as it is, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to distribute the patient load over the system.”

Statewide, there were 160 new hospitalizations, bringing the total in New York to 3,532 COVID-19 patients. The statewide positivity rate rose to 4.57 percent, the highest mark since mid-May.

“We’re already experiencing staff shortages, and that staff gets exhausted after a while,” Cuomo said. “To now go through this again with emergency rooms and a high number of COVID patients coming in, it could be a problem.

“These staffs are starting tired … starting sick, so it’s essential that we begin to identify retired doctors and nurses now,” he added. “We’re not going to live through the nightmare of overwhelmed hospitals again.” 

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