New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the state's hospital systems are close to being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and that he is implementing new policy measures in "a new phase in the war" against the novel coronavirus.
"We are now worried about overwhelming the hospital system," said Cuomo. "And if numbers continue to increase — which we expect they will — you will see serious stress on the hospital system."
Cuomo is requiring hospitals to increase their bed capacity by 50%, but his primary concern is a shortage of medical workers.
"I am very worried about staff shortages," said Cuomo. "I'm more concerned about the staff shortage than I am the [number of hospital] beds. We can build beds. We can't create more staff. And the staff is starting tired."
To assist with this problem, Cuomo is mandating that all hospitals create a list of retired doctors and medical staff that could be recruited in the event of overflow.
New York has 57,919 hospital beds, 39,854 of which being utilized as of Sunday. While a little more than 3,500 of these are being utilized by COVID-19 patients, New York does not have the benefit of the 30,000 health workers that flooded the state in the spring during the initial outbreak.
Before the pandemic, only a third of all U.S. hospitals beds were available for incoming patients. In King, Queens, and New York counties – the most populous in the state at nearly 6.5 million combined residents – these numbers were even lower, at an average availability of 19%, 21%, and 21% respectively.
While New York City has reported a decline in COVID-19 patients since November 25 – a metric similar to positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across both New York and across the U.S. since that day – Cuomo said he believes the viral spread due to Thanksgiving-day gatherings will likely "be big."
The governor also said he would be pausing elective surgeries in certain counties, mandating that hospitals distribute patients within their systems, set up emergency field hospital plans region-wide, and run inventories of PPE equipment.