Hospitalizations become state’s top concern; elective surgeries to end in Erie County starting Friday

Around New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — Hospitalizations are the state’s top concern, and a new factor in cluster zone designations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday morning.

We’ve been seeing the “fall surge” in COVID-19 cases that the Governor has been warning about. Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 recently surpassed 3,500, as of Sunday.

Erie County, which has seen especially high infection rates lately, will have a new restriction starting Friday — no more elective surgeries.

The Governor says the county has the “most critical hospital situation in the state.”

“We’re not going to live through the nightmare of overwhelmed hospitals again,” Cuomo says. If hospitals do become overwhelmed, the Governor says there will be a state investigation.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is not as much concerned about hospital capacity as he is about staffing.

With Thanksgiving behind us, Cuomo is expecting to see another surge in cases between three and seven days from Monday. He referred to this as part of an expected “holiday surge.”

According to Cuomo, the holiday season, where many people will be gathering together, typically indoors, will last 37 days.

He says 65 percent of COVID-19 cases in the state result from small gatherings.

Depending on how bad the situation in New York State gets, the Governor says it’s possible that we could return to “NY on PAUSE,” where non-essential businesses are shut down.

The big difference from the shutdown we saw in the spring though, is that the Governor is pushing for K-8 schools to stay open. He says data shows that schools are safer than the surrounding community in terms of viral spread.

In orange zones, 20% of the school population must be tested over a month’s time. It’s 30% in red zones. Schools in either a red or an orange zone will no longer be required to conduct mass testing before reopening.

“The proposal that’s now statewide is very similar to what our local superintendents thought was attainable here.” said Poloncarz. “They learned from what we could and could not do in Erie County based on the size of our population.”

The requirements for schools in yellow zones are not changing, a New York State Department of Health spokesperson said. Those schools must test 20% of their population within two weeks of entering a yellow zone.

Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash provided a statement to News 4 on Tuesday morning:

“Once we receive specific guidance from the NYS Department of Health, we will be able to understand what the requirements will be for a district our size — the second largest district in NY state. With that information, we will be able to further assess the full cost for tests and possible additional staffing that will be needed to comply with testing requirements in both an orange zone and, if infection rates increase, a red zone. Until I hear more details, this will not affect my decision to re-open in person.”

Dr. Kriner Cash

Evan Anstey is a digital content producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here.

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