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COVID In NYC: Staten Island Getting Emergency Coronavirus Treatment Facility As More Restrictions Loom

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There were strong warnings Monday from Gov. Andrew Cuomo heading into the holidays as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across New York.

Cuomo said parts of our area are already headed into the orange zone and are facing new restrictions.

As CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reported, Cuomo said hospitalizations have tripled on Staten Island in the past three weeks, and hospital capacity is becoming an issue. So the state is opening an emergency COVID patient facility to be ready for what could come.

Watch Gov. Cuomo's COVID Briefing:

People lining up for COVID tests have become the norm across Staten Island -- from a Hylan Boulevard CityMD to the Ferry Terminal -- as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

On Monday morning, two dozen people were waiting in line for a COVID swab at the Ferry Terminal.

"Got tested two weeks ago. I took the rapid one, said that I had it," said Staten Island resident Ross Gonchman.

He was getting tested Monday to make sure he's negative.

Others in the line worried about a second shutdown looming.

"How can you feel? It's not really a great feeling. Things are shutting down left and right, businesses are failing left and right," said Staten Island resident Edwin Ayala.

An orange zone means high risk, so non-essential businesses like gyms and personal care close. Dining moves to outdoor only. Mass gatherings move to maximum 10 people. It's possible some areas on Staten Island could even move into a red zone, which means essential businesses only. Dining is takeout only, and no mass gatherings.

The northern part of the borough is entering the yellow zone. The southern is entering the orange zone, which for Andrew's Diner means no indoor dining, yet again.

Diva Nail and Spa on Hylan Boulevard was trying to safely accommodate as many customers as possible Monday night before being forced to turn off the open sign.

"The only thing we can do is take care of customers. We do our best. We cannot afford one more shutdown because of everything we need to pay for," an employee told CBS2's Jessica Layton.

"It's tough, as if it wasn't tough enough," said Kostantino Plaitis, general manager of Andrew's Diner. "We're doing everything we can with procedures and things they put in place for us to stay on top of only to take a step backwards. It hurts."

The diner is located in Great Kills, where the infection rate is 5.45%. Tottenville is shy of 6%, where salons, gyms and other nonessential businesses will also close.


"We need to be sensitive to the small businesses in the community that have already suffered so much. To say you can't eat in Great Kills but you can eat in West Brighton is really sort of unfair," said Congresswoman-elect Nicole Malliotakis.

"Staten Island has such an issue that it has triggered a hospital capacity issue. And the hospitals have contacted us and they say they need emergency beds on Staten Island," Cuomo said. "Remember when we had to set up field hospitals, emergency hospitals for additional capacity? Well, that's what we have to do on Staten Island."

The state is reopening an emergency COVID patient facility at South Beach Psychiatric Center that was used to help full hospitals at the height of the pandemic.

Watch Mayor de Blasio's Press Conference:

"During the peak we were treating a little over 300 people with COVID, but you have to remember that everything else in the hospital was shut down except people coming in with grave emergencies," said Brahim Ardolic, executive director of Staten Island University Hospital.

Staten Island University Hospital is currently treating more than 100 COVID patients. Ardolic said this will help take care of those with non-COVID issues.

Even with parts of Staten Island and Upper Manhattan turning yellow, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is focused on reopening schools.

"When we come back, the first thing we're going to focus on is getting is what's called District 75 schools, special ed schools, back and up and running across all grades," de Blasio said.

A looming concern is how holidays will play a factor in the spike in cases. Doctors are urging people to heed the warnings.

"You've got to think smart because while you may not kill your grandma or your aunt, you may sentence them to weeks in the hospital, and nobody wants to do that," Ardolic said.

Based on the current trends, the governor said hospitalizations could reach 6,000 in just three weeks -- and that's not counting a holiday spike.

As far as the zones go, they go in effect for businesses Wednesday.

De Blasio said we could see zone changes soon after Thanksgiving citywide.

"There's a likelihood as soon as next week that New York City will be declared an orange zone," de Blasio said.

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