New York State Hospitals Ordered to ‘Balance Load’ by Redirecting COVID Patients

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivers a COVID-19 update in Rochester. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

New York hospital networks have been ordered by the state’s Department of Health, effective immediately, to be prepared for overloaded hospitals to send out patients to other hospitals that have available beds and services.

The new mandate is an attempt to manage hospital capacity and to prevent situation in March and April, when individual hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients while others had room in the ICU, from happening again.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the new rule at his press conference on Monday. “We are not going to live through the nightmare of overwhelmed hospitals again,” he said. “If a hospital does get overwhelmed there will be a state investigation.”

With 3,532 New Yorkers in the hospital and cases steadily rising, Cuomo said all hospitals are expected to be able to add 50% bed capacity, assemble 90 days worth of PPE to stockpile, and identify retired medical personnel who may be available.

Hospitals in Erie County, which has 25,427 coronavirus cases and a 7-day rolling average positivity rate of 7.43%, have been ordered to cancel all elective surgeries.

“The cases are going to go up,” he said. “I want to make sure our number one priority is hospital capacity. That has always been my nightmare.”

Cuomo urged New Yorkers to be cautious, and said that data has shown as many as 65% of cases have been caused by small friends and family gatherings, rather than restaurants or shopping.

“Government is not capable of enforcing what you do in your home,” he said. “It’s about people being smart.”

He praised New York City’s decision to reopen public schools.

““The school protocols and the school testings? Great, highly effective,” said Cuomo.

Earlier on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that some elementary school and special education students will be returning to in-person learning as early as this upcoming week, but middle schoolers and high schoolers will have to wait until December 26th.

The previous system of a 3% positivity rate prompting a school shutdown will no longer be applicable, as science has shown children are at low risk for transmitting the disease. Weekly testing will be mandatory for staff and students to keep schools open.

Cuomo said the state could expect the first round of vaccinations for essential workers in “next few weeks.” He cautioned, however, that mass immunization of New York’s millions of citizens would take months.

The statewide positivity rate in New York is 4.57% according to state data.


Updated Monday, November 30, 2020 at 3:21 pm .

Updated Monday, November 30, 2020 at 3:44 pm .