The Governor held a briefing today, and he outlined five strategies the state will be pursing to help control the spread of COVID-19 during the upcoming winter months. The Governor spoke in most detail regarding a strategy related to hospitals and ensuring that they do not become overwhelmed. He outlined several components of this strategy, including the following: working with hospitals to ensure that the patient load is balanced; developing field hospital plans; reaching out to retired health care professionals; creating a state-wide surge and flex plan for needed beds, supplies, and equipment; ensuring access to adequate personal protective equipment; and requiring hospitals to add 50% bed capacity at their facilities. As part of managing the hospital capacity, the Governor stated that another pause order could be put in place if it appears that the hospital system in a region(s) is about to be overwhelmed. For now, the red, orange, and yellow zones are also still in place, and hospital capacity will now be added to the metrics that are reviewed when making a zone determination. However, if these restrictions don’t control the spread, then more extreme measures will need to be taken. Finally, he stated that starting Friday, December 4, elective surgeries in Erie County will be halted because of their hospital capacity numbers.
The Governor also outlined four additional strategies that will be pursued. The second strategy will be to increase New York’s already high level of testing and to balance testing across many different areas of need. The third strategy will be to work to keep schools open for as long as it is safe, with a particular focus on K – 8 and special education students. This will be done through increased testing and using more pooled testing to get more results to the schools. The fourth strategy deals with creating a public awareness campaign around the spread of COVID-19 in small gatherings. Currently, the state limits small private gatherings to 10 people (or the household for those with more than 10). The Governor indicated that this rule is very hard to enforce and acknowledged that many people do not like it. However, he emphasized this is the main cause of spread right now, so the state will focus on getting this message out and asking people to abide by this rule. Finally, the Governor outlined the fifth strategy to prepare the state for vaccine distribution once a vaccine is approved. The distribution plan will focus on getting the vaccine to people in all areas of the state as soon as possible.
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