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Governor Cuomo orders hospitals to increase bed capacity by 25%

Currently in the Western New York region, there are 487 people in the hospital being treated for the coronavirus.

NEW YORK, New York — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo provided an update on the state's battle with COVID-19 for Monday, December 7.

Cuomo announced that the New York State Department of Health is ordering hospitals across the state to increase bed capacity by 25 percent. Currently 4,602 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in New York State. 

"We will manage the hospital system as best we can," Cuomo said. "But if we overwhelm the hospital system, we will have no choice but to go to close down."

Currently in the Western New York region, there are 487 people in the hospital being treated for the coronavirus. The percentage of the region's population that is hospitalized, 0.04 percent, is currently the highest percentage in the state.

The Western New York region includes Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Allegany counties.

Cuomo is also calling for all retired doctors and nurses who are able to return to service. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who the governor referred to as 'America's Doctor', took part in Monday's briefing from Washington. Fauci said the anticipated surge of positive cases attributed to the Thanksgiving holiday may still be another week to a week and a half away. The doctor's concern is that time period will collide with the upcoming Hanukkah and Christmas holidays meaning the country could see a 'surge upon a surge.' 

"If those two things happen, you could start to see things get really bad in the middle of January without substantial mitigation," Fauci said.

Cuomo said last week that living room spread — small gatherings people are having a home when they have people over from other households — are causing more than 70 percent of new COVID-19 cases across the state. Governor Cuomo said Monday that compliance is very low on the no more than 10 people gathering in private residences order. 

Fauci says that 10 might be too many people, especially if they're coming in from out of town.

"You want to make sure you don't get people who just got off at an airport, or a plane, or a train and came in from Florida, or came in from where ever, that's even more risky than the absolute numbers," Fauci said. "So not only the number of 10 seems reasonable, but make sure that when people come in, that they're not people you have no idea where they've been, or who they've been exposed to. I mean, you want to be friendly, you want to be collegial, but you really got to be careful about that."

Indoor dining is already shut down in Orange Zones, now the governor says the state will follow the CDC's indoor dining guidance that just came out Friday.

Here's what that means.

If after five days, the regional hospitalization rate doesn't stabilize, in New York City indoor dining won't be allowed anymore at all.

For the rest of the state, outside of Orange Zones — so Yellow Zones or areas not in color zones — indoor dining would go from 50-percent capacity to 25-percent capacity. It's all based on the state's numbers, and restaurants would get a couple of days to make those changes.

"If that hospitalization rate doesn't stabilize, which frankly I don't expect it to, I think Dr. Fauci is right," Cuomo said. "You're seeing the Thanksgiving wave is just starting to break, and then the Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa wave is going to start, so I don't see it, New Yorkers could change it, right? Because it's all a function of behavior, but if the hospitalization rate doesn't stabilize over the next five days, then we'll go from 25 to zero in New York, 50 to 25 outside of New York City besides the Orange Zones which are already at zero."

Monday, the governor revealed new information about his winter plan with Western New York having one of the highest percentages of its population hospitalized right now as a region. It's also a problem in the Finger Lakes Region and in Central New York. It's flipped from this spring.

So Monday morning, Governor Cuomo ordered hospitals to increase their bed capacity by 25-percent and asked retired nurses and doctors to help. That should boost staffing levels by 20,000 people.

Patients are also able to be transferred to different hospitals - both public and private.

If hospital capacity becomes critical, meaning your seven-day average shows that within three weeks you will hit critical hospital capacity — which is 90-percent — your region will close down and go into a Red Zone.

"If you are at a rate that is going to overwhelm your hospitals, you must shut down," Cuomo said. "Not just indoor dining, shut down. Only essential businesses. Oh, we don't want to do that again. Then change your behavior. But if we don't change our behavior, that is the absolute reality of the situation. How can you talk about close down again. That was terrible. Because it's the truth. It's the truth."

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz spoke about the Western New York region's hospital capacity during a briefing Monday.

"The hospital capacity for Western New York region, not Erie County, Western New York for the 6th was 28 percent were available and 50 percent of ICU beds," he said. "That's a good thing that the ICU bed capacity numbers are as high as they are. That is probably the only reason we haven't gone into the red is because we still have hospital beds available."

Cuomo says between now and April, when the general population will likely start getting vaccinated, is critical and that that is when these hospitalization numbers will be important.