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Hochul announces urgent action to boost hospital capacity and address staffing shortages

Fri, Nov 26th 2021 05:55 pm

State of emergency to trigger use of surge and flex system and expand purchasing ability

√ Department of Health will be permitted to limit nonessential, nonurgent scheduled hospital procedures if necessary to ensure capacity

√ New omicron variant not detected in New York state yet, but Hochul warns: 'It's coming'

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday announced “urgent action” to boost hospital capacity and address staffing shortages ahead of potential spikes in COVID-19 cases this upcoming winter. Through an executive order signed by Hochul, the Department of Health will be allowed to limit nonessential, nonurgent procedures for in-hospitals or systems with limited capacity to protect access to critical health care services. Limited capacity is defined as below 10% staffed bed capacity, or as determined by the Department of Health based on regional and health care utilization factors.

The new protocols will begin Friday, Dec. 3, and will be reassessed based on the latest COVID-19 data on Jan. 15, 2022. The executive order will also enable New York state to acquire more quickly any critical supplies to combat the pandemic.

"We've taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic. However, 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 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 vaccine remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic, and I encourage every New Yorker to get vaccinated, and get the booster if you're fully vaccinated."

Hochul’s team said her administration “continues to take comprehensive steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including mask protocols in health care and P-12 school settings; correctional facilities and detentions centers; public transportation and at transportation hubs; and implementation of the HERO Act, which requires all employers to implement workplace safety plans in response to COVID-19.

“The administration continues to focus on boosting vaccination rates among New Yorkers, including bolstering the state's network of vaccine access points, and working to expand testing supplies. That also includes acting on our comprehensive plan to vaccinate school-aged children 5-17, provide incentive programs, combat vaccine misinformation campaigns, increase vaccine awareness, deploy pop-up vaccines in targeted low-vaccination areas, and implement vaccine requirements for health care workers.

“On Aug. 24, the vaccination rate among adults with one dose was 78.8%. Today, it is 90.2%.

“Further, the Administration continues to ramp up booster shots and urges all New Yorkers to get the booster dose once fully vaccinated. As of Nov. 24, over 2.2 million boosters and/or additional doses have been administered. Nearly 4,500 locations across are administering booster shots.”

The administration will continue to partner with local leaders to make vaccines, boosters and testing more widely available.

Earlier in the day, Hochul said, "We are closely monitoring the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529, also known as the omicron variant. The Department of Health's Wadsworth Center Laboratory will continue to actively monitor COVID-19 virus samples selected from throughout New York state to compare sequences and identify circulating and new variants. While we have not yet identified any omicron cases, we are not surprised that new variants are emerging and may likely end up in New York. We will continue to monitor WHO actions and work with our partners at the CDC to keep a close eye on developments."

"I want to remind New Yorkers to continue taking the precautionary steps we know reduce the spread of this deadly virus: wear a mask in indoor public places, use proper hand hygiene, get tested, and stay home when sick. The vaccine also remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic, and this news further emphasizes the need for each of us to get vaccinated and get the booster if you're fully vaccinated."

New York State Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario commented on the counties' continued battle against COVID-19. He said, “Combatting the COVID-19 pandemic remains a tense and vexing challenge for those responsible for protecting the public. Our chief elected officials must make decisions in real time based on the most up-to-date data, and these decisions can be unpopular, but they are necessary to protect our communities. Our local public health officials, emergency managers and coroners are experiencing high levels of fatigue and burn out. We respectfully ask for continued cooperation and civility as we go through this next COVID phase.”

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