Nov. 28, 2021 -- With COVID-19 cases on the rise and the Omicron variant threatening, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday declared a state of emergency that boosts hospital capacity and addresses staffing shortages. While the variant has not yet been found in New York, she warned in a tweet, “It’s coming.”

Hochul said she wanted to postpone all elective surgeries ahead of a potential winter surge in cases. The new protocols go into effect Dec. 3 and will be reevaluated Jan. 15 when the latest data on COVID cases is available, she said in a news release.

“We continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it's coming," Hochul said in the news release. "In preparation, I am announcing urgent steps today to expand hospital capacity and help ensure our hospital systems can tackle any challenges posed by the pandemic as we head into the winter months.”

The limitations on surgery apply to hospitals with limited capacity, defined as having available staffed bed capacity of 10% or less.

Hochul also plans to make vaccinations sites more numerous and accessible, get shots into more children aged 5-17, provide incentive programs, combat misinformation, set up pop-up campaigns in low-vaccination areas, and implement vaccine requirements for healthcare workers.

During the early days of the pandemic, New York City was a hotspot. Now, with the vaccination program almost a year old, the areas outside the city – especially upstate counties -- are the places reporting high positivity rates and low vaccination rates, according to data from the New York Department of Health.

As of Saturday, New York City’s seven-day positivity rate is 1.65% compared to 9.67% in the Buffalo/Western New York region, 8.85% in the Finger Lakes, 7.82% in the North Country/Adirondacks, and 6.96% in the Albany area, DOH data shows. The state’s overall positivity rate of 3.84%.

In New York City, at least one dose of vaccine has been given to 97.1% of adults in Queens, 94% in Manhattan, 86.5% in the Bronx, 84.5% in Staten Island, and 83% in Brooklyn. The rate is under 70% in 18 upstate counties, including 52.9% in Allegheny County and 57.5% in Tioga County. The state’s overall vaccination rate is 90%.

“The virus is still lurking among us,” Ayman El-Mohandes, MD, dean of the CUNY School of Public Health, told The New York Post. “The low vaccination rates and high positivity rate upstate is very concerning.”

Show Sources

Twitter: @GovKathyHochul

New York State. “Governor Hochul Announces Urgent Action to Boost Hospital Capacity and Address Staffing Shortages”

New York State. “Positive Tests Over Time, by Region and County”

New York State. “Vaccination Progress to Date”
The New York Post. “Gov. Kathy Hochul orders halt on elective surgery amid COVID spike, Omicron”

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