Story at a glance
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to prepare state hospitals for surges in COVID-19 patients.
- A key feature will be “load balancing” to equally delegate patients.
New York is confronting another peak in COVID-19 cases following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, joining the vast majority of other U.S. states showcasing new case growth.
While the seven-day rolling average of new cases is still well-below the infection rate seen in spring, health department data showcases a small uptick in positive COVID-19 tests statewide, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to implement emergency surge plans in hospitals for the parallel rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Cuomo noted that if regions in the state began to struggle with an influx of COVID-19 patients, some parts of the state could revert to New York State on Pause, a 10-point plan enacted back in March at the onset of the pandemic.
“We are now worried about overwhelming the hospital system,” Cuomo told reporters. “If those numbers continue to increase, which we expect they will, you will see serious stress on the hospital system.”
Emergency protocols in overwhelmed hospitals encompasses new regulations, including pausing elective surgeries, asking retired medical professionals to support understaffed hospitals, and “load balancing” which would aim to equitably distribute COVID-19 patients across all state hospitals in order to avoid overwhelming a single facility.
Not all of these measures have been implemented statewide. Erie County, which is struggling under a rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, postponed elective surgeries to free up hospital resources.
For other hospitals that are hit less hard with a surge in COVID-19 patients, Cuomo intends to have them coordinate with other hospitals that are closer to hitting capacity.
“It’s in the patient’s best interest to distribute the patient load over the system. We’re not going to live through the nightmare of overwhelmed hospitals again,” he said. “If a hospital gets overwhelmed, there will be a state investigation.”
Temporary field hospitals are also under consideration, and are projected to add another 50 percent of capacity room to hospitals.