New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hinted at the possibility of another statewide shutdown Monday but said for now state policy is focused on containment by county and by neighborhood and the small gatherings excoriated by health officials are way deadlier than restaurants and bars.
Schools are even less risky and in a surprising display of amity the governor had New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Zoomed in to his sweeping post-Thanksgiving press briefing to be praised for reopening NYC schools next week.
At the Monday presser — events that garnered Cuomo a special Emmy Award – the governor announced a preemptive holiday attack on Covid-19, which turned New York City into a deathtrap last spring when the virus wasn’t expected or understood. With vaccines not likely to take hold until late spring-early summer, he added hospitalization rates to the list of metrics that currently determine cluster zones and he set out rules for hospitals to distribute Covid patients (both within and among individual hospital systems), to confirm they have at least a 30-day supply of PPE, and to expand their capacity by 50%.
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“In warfare there are no constant conditions,” he said. “Covid is shifting the battlefield dramatically and we have entered a new phase.” Heath officials are talking about “a surge on [top of] the surge,” he noted, with colder weather and the holidays. “Covid is the Grinch,” he said, and keeping hospitals running smoothly is the key to avoiding an emergency stop provision.
“We could issue a statewide pause if we have a critical hospital situation, like California did,” he said. Earlier this month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled most the state’s counties into the most restrictive zones, fearing a spike in cases could overwhelm the health care system.
The latest infection rate in New York at 4.5% is still among the lowest in the nation but it’s rising, and officials are scarred by last spring. Still, Cuomo said, “before hitting the pause button you have additional restrictions” possible, by zone. Cases from indoor dining, salons and gyms and other businesses, which would be hard hit in any crackdown, “are relatively small compared with the small-gathering spread.”
So while Cuomo recently imposed a statewide 10 p.m. curfew on indoor dining he as has so far avoided other major rollbacks outside of cluster zones. Movie theaters are allowed to operate everywhere in the state outside of the core New York City market, which unfortunately didn’t get the greenlight to reopen before the second Covid wave hit.
Leaving businesses open while schools close, however, has been controversial. In the nation’s largest school district in New York City, de Blasio shuttered schools November 18 but said Sunday that they will start to reopen December 10 and increase testing. Cases in schools are extremely low – well below the city average — and there was massive pushback by parents as well as by the governor when the doors shut to in-person learning.
The governor and mayor practically cooed at each other Monday in a rare appearance by de Blasio at Cuomo’s briefing — a refreshing display of unity between the two officials whose policies have sometimes been at odds and poorly coordinated.
“Mayor, I think that opening the schools was the right idea,” Cuomo said. Kids can get tested “and parents can go on with their life.”
“Amen,” de Blasio said. “Thank you. I thought the conversations this weekend were really helpful and I appreciate the plan you’ve laid out.”
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