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NYC COVID Advisory: Health Commissioner Urges Older, At-Risk New Yorkers To Stay Home

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- With COVID cases and hospitalizations rising, New York City is suddenly advising  seniors and those with underlying conditions to put themselves in a sort of voluntary lockdown -- stay home, avoid unnecessary activity.

But Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are not exactly on the same page.

As CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported, New York City seniors were out and about in force Tuesday shopping, going about their business even if they needed canes and walkers to do it, as officials took what seems like another step backwards in the war against the coronavirus -- another sign that the second wave is upon us.

Mayor de Blasio and the city health commissioner issued an advisory -- effective immediately -- asking people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions to stay home -- limit outside activity.

"The new measures need to be taken to protect those who are most vulnerable," de Blasio said.

The advisory says that the vulnerable -- including household members and caregivers  -- should stay home, except to travel to work or school or for essential purposes: medical care, grocery shopping, the drugstore. But there is a caveat.

"Well, I am discouraging non-essential activities. Medical care is essential both for COVID, that includes testing for COVID, as well as for other conditions. Whether for diabetes or depression, it's important to keep seeking routine care and go to clinics and hospitals when you need to. It is safe," said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi.

WATCH: Mayor, Health Commissioner Hold Coronavirus Briefing 

The commissioner warned at-risk residents to take precautions, saying the city will help them get food and medical care. He also encouraged them to take advantage of telehealth appointments.

"We've seen in the crisis many new ways of using telemedicine, much more willingness of patients to engage it," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "This is also a crucial way you can help seniors and folks with preexisting conditions without them having to leave their homes."

The advisory is an attempt to limit infections and the need for hospitalization. It asks seniors, pregnant women and people with cancer, heart and kidney disease and other ailments to wear masks at all times -- indoor and out -- and to limit interactions with others as much as possible. It advises not to have guests in their homes and to avoid travel both in New York and outside the state, two things that might be especially hard during this holiday season.

"We need to keep people alive," de Blasio said.


But this was another example where the state's top leaders, a certain "Mr. D" and "Mr. C," we're not exactly on the same page

The governor took pains to point out that no "restrictions" are being issued. He called the mayor's moves "guidance" and "advice."

"Senior citizens should be on alert, people over 70 should be on alert, immune suppressed people should be on alert. Nobody is being restricted," Cuomo said. "You're 70 years old. You can do whatever you want to do in life. My advice is be careful. You are not imprisoned in your home."

Both the governor and the mayor are wanting to see if there is a post-Thanksgiving spike in infections. If there is, there could very well be new restrictions.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tweeted out, "[nationally] hospitalization rates are higher now than at any other time during the pandemic." Adults 65 and older make up most of the increase.

"I'm terrified. I'm of the age, unfortunately, that I'm at high risk," Lynn Gray told CBS2 in Columbus Circle.

The advisory comes amid growing concern that hospitals will become overwhelmed.

"Health and Hospitals have been preparing for many weeks," de Blasio said Tuesday.

"We have three month supplies for all of our personal protective equipment- what people call PPE. We have more than enough ventilators," Health and Hospitals CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz added.


The president of Mount Sinai Hospital told CBS2's John Dias the hospital system isn't at capacity yet, but he wants to sound the alarm early that cases could start to double or even triple.

"Our ICUs are always very full, and so what ends up happening is that if the demand increases dramatically for COVID patient beds, then something else has to give," said Dr. David Reich. "If we go back to March and April, there was a lot of excess death in our community... So everything else that afflicts people besides COVID doesn't get treated as well if our resources are constrained."

He said it's important to remain vigilant until the vaccine comes.

"The public health measures -- the social distancing, the masking, the avoidance of gatherings -- these are our only tools to get through winter without a massive surge," Reich said.

The mayor and governor have said if there is a hospitalization crisis, the city and state could implement more restrictions.

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