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Indoor dining ban looms, hospitals add beds amid COVID surge

NY hospitalizations reach double Nov. 18 count

December 8, 2020 Marina Villeneuve Associated Press
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Hospitals across New York were ordered Monday to add 25 percent more beds to handle growing numbers of coronavirus patients, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned he will curtail indoor dining if hospitalizations keep rising.

Over 4,600 COVID-19 patients are now hospitalized statewide, double the amount reported Nov. 18. Cuomo said that the state isn’t yet at a “critical” level of COVID-19 hospitalizations, but that the continued growth is worrying.

“I think that’s the ultimate bottom line: Can your hospitals handle the increase until you start to see a reduction from the vaccinations?” Cuomo said at a briefing in New York City.

The Democratic governor said he’ll shut down schools, nonessential businesses and all restaurant table service in regions that are on track to hit 90 percent of hospital capacity within three weeks, based on a seven-day average.

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Meanwhile, Cuomo said he’d wait five days to see whether hospitalizations keep rising before he might rein in indoor dining — potentially banning it in New York City as soon as next Monday and limiting it elsewhere to 25 percent capacity, down from 50 percent.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that indoor dining is high-risk “when distancing is not maintained and consistent use of face masks is not possible.”

Cuomo and public health experts expect hospitalization rates to continue rising until at least mid-January.

“You’d expect the effect of the Thanksgiving surge would probably be another week or a week and a half from now,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, who joined Cuomo’s briefing by livestream Monday.

Cuomo has essentially given New York City a one-week warning that indoor dining will likely be shut down, said Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association.

“With the looming limits on indoor dining and outdoor dining no longer practical, many of our members will be forced to shut their doors, and for some it may be their final service,” she said. “Based on today’s news, many restaurants will have no other choice, and hundreds of thousands of restaurant employees will be laid off during the holidays.”

Fauci noted that after upticks in cases, it can take over two weeks for hospitalizations to increase.

Worried about potential hospital staffing shortages, Cuomo urged retired health care workers to volunteer to help provide as many as 20,000 extra nurses and doctors.

New York recorded over 65,000 new coronavirus cases over the past seven days, up 80 percent from two weeks ago. The state averaged 47 daily new cases per 100,000 residents over the seven days through Saturday — higher than at least a dozen other states including Florida and South Carolina.

Central and western New York have continued to see upticks in cases and hospitalizations over the past weeks.

State Sen. George Borello, a Republican who represents a western New York district, said Monday he and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus following a Sunday test he took as a precaution. He said that they both “feel well” and that Borrelo wore masks and followed social distancing guidelines at public events he recently attended.

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