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Cuomo Outlines Winter COVID Plan With Strong Focus On Making Sure Hospitals Don't Get Overwhelmed

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled his winter plan for what he called the surge of COVID cases.

It focuses on making sure no New York hospital runs out of space, like some did in the spring.

As CBS2's Marcia Kramer reports, Cuomo played a little Christmas music, even hummed a few bars, and likened COVID to the Grinch.

"It's not going to be a one or two day affair. It's going to be the entire holiday season, which is 37 days," Cuomo said. "COVID is the Grinch. Think of it that way. And the COVID Grinch is an opportunist and the COVID Grinch sees this as the season of viral transmission."


Gov. Cuomo was all seriousness when he said his biggest worry, as infection rates continue to mount, is avoiding hospitals being overwhelmed, like Elmhurst Hospital was last spring.

FLASHBACK: More Than A Dozen Patients Die With 24 Hours At Queens Hospital

"We learned from this nightmare. We're going to correct for the lessons we learned during this nightmare," Cuomo said.

The governor is ordering hospitals throughout the state to:

  • Identify retired nurses and doctors who can fill shortages
  • Add 50% to their bed capacity
  • Develop a flex and surge plan to spread patient load among hospitals in the same system, like the city's Health + Hospitals, and also throughout the state

PPE stockpiles must be confirmed.

Cuomo said testing is also a part of the state's strategy.

"We have to have a balanced distribution," the governor said.

Watch Marcia Kramer's Report:

Cuomo noted local hospitals cannot depend on help coming from anywhere else because hospitals nationwide are already strained, CBS2's Jessica Layton reported.

"We're already experiencing staff shortages. Staff just gets exhausted after awhile. They've had a horrendous year, to now go through this again with emergency rooms and a high number of COVID patients coming in," Cuomo said.

Recruiting retired medical staff proved helpful early in the pandemic.

The governor said we need more emergency field hospitals, which are already on Staten Island.

On Monday, three new COVID treatment centers opened in the city, including one in Tremont, which will give patients in recovery access to cardiologists, pulmonologists and primary care doctors.

WATCH: New COVID-19 Clinics Open In Tremont, Bushwick, Jackson Heights

The city has opened 25 new mobile testing centers in the past week.

"Whether you traveled or you didn't travel, we're encouraging people to get tested," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The city is now posting wait times at the centers because one of the biggest complaints has been long lines. In fact, CBS2 did not see any lines outside two facilities in Manhattan on Monday afternoon.

"The bottom line is get tested. There's still so many people who have never been tested... This is how we fight back this second wave," de Blasio said.

The state reported 3,500 hospitalizations Sunday - a frightening amount that first arose in March.

As the numbers rise, many are concerned the governor will close gyms and hair salons, and end indoor dining.

WATCH: Gov. Andrew Cuomo Outlines Changes In New York's COVID Strategy

"Is it time to turn the valve a little bit more, in terms of indoor dining, gyms and beauty salons?" Kramer asked Cuomo.

"Here's the problem with the new numbers. The valve no longer controls the spread. When we started, the spread was indoor dining, large social gatherings. The spread now, over 65%, small, at-home gatherings," Cuomo said.

But while he didn't announce new restrictions, they will happen automatically if he declares more mini-cluster zones after the full effects of the Thanksgiving celebrations are felt within 10 days.

"Would you expect to have more red, orange and yellow zones?" Kramer asked.

"My belief... is the Thanksgiving number is going to be big," Cuomo said. "If that's the case, yes."

MORE: Health Experts Say Dramatic Increase In COVID Cases 'Will Certainly Happen' In Weeks After Thanksgiving

Governor Cuomo also said if things continue to get worse there is the possibility of another New York pause, which is another word for lockdown.

The governor said small gatherings like the ones people are having in their homes is a serious cause for concern.

"The small gathering spread is now the number one spreader, about 65% of all cases. This is a dramatic shift," Cuomo said. "Part of it is the holidays. It's what happens during holidays. Part of it is reduced social options. I can't go to the bar and hang out. I can't go to the restaurant and hang out. I can't go to the movie theater and hang out. Come over to my house and we'll hang out. It's just an adaptation of social behavior to the circumstances."

The state is limiting gatherings to 10 people in their homes.

"This is where the spread is coming from," Cuomo said. "We have to communicate this now to people the way we communicated masks. Seemingly the safest place - my home, my table, my family - yeah, even that place is not safe. And we're going to have a new public education campaign that speaks just to this.

"This is not government being overly dramatic. These are just facts," he added.

Cuomo says vaccine "critical mass" is still months away.


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