Indoor dining could close in New York City as soon as next Monday if coronavirus hospitalizations don’t stabilize, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today.
“If after five days if we haven’t seen a stabilization in a region's hospital rate we're going to clamp down on indoor dining,” said Cuomo. “New Yorkers could change it right because it’s all a function of behavior.”
Restaurants in the city, outside of orange zones, are currently operating at 25% indoor capacity. If the city’s current hospitalization rate stays on track it would force restaurants to operate on outdoor dining only and take out methods.
For the rest of the state, restaurants would go from 50% indoor capacity to 25%.
The governor says this announcement gives restaurants time to prepare in case the hospitalization rate doesn’t decrease in the next few days.
Cuomo pointed to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that identified indoor dining as a “high risk activity.”
The governor also ordered all hospitals to increase their bed capacity by 25%, as COVID-19 hospitalizations increase once again across the state.
"Every night, we get an inventory from every hospital doctor,” Cuomo explained during a press conference in New York City. “How many patients do you have, what capacity do you have?"
This sort of “flex management system” for hospitals, which allows them to increase bed capacity by canceling elective surgeries and moving certain patients, was first implemented in the spring and Cuomo says this is now starting back up again this week.
"We are aware of staff resources; staff come into this stressed," he said.
Because of this, Cuomo says the state is calling for all able nurse and doctor retirees to return to service.
On top of this, if a region’s hospital capacity shows signs of reaching 90% within three weeks, then the whole region will go on “PAUSE.”
"We will manage the hospital system as best we can. But if we overwhelm the hospital system, we will have no choice but to go to close down,” Cuomo explained. "There are no options, that's not discretionary ... you can't overwhelm the hospital system ... then people die unnecessarily."
Dr. Anthony Fauci joined Cuomo for his press conference virtually, and said he agreed with the governor’s plan.
Dr. Fauci reminded people that the surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations will most likely not be seen until Hanukkah or Christmas, creating “a surge upon a surge,” if people are not careful during the holidays.
“Middle of January could be a really dark time for us,” Dr. Fauci said, noting that the 10-person cap to gatherings might even be too many.
He also made the case that bars and restaurants should be subsidized so they can close, while the state works to keep schools open that have so far shown to have a lower test positivity rate.
New York’s statewide positive COVID-19 infection rate was 4.79% on Sunday. Hospitalizations increased by 160 people yesterday, bringing the total to 4,602 hospitalizations. Eighty New Yorkers died from COVID-19 yesterday.