New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced late last week what she called an “extraordinary action” to ensure the state’s hospitals have sufficient capacity for the winter as she said the state must get ready for a new COVID-19 variant.
Hochul signed an executive order that will give the state Department of Health the ability to limit non-essential, non-urgent procedures for hospitals and systems the department determines is operating at a limited capacity.
According to Hochul’s announcement, the limited capacity threshold is defined at below 10% of staffed bed capacity. However, DOH can also use other regional and health care utilization factors to make the determination.
The order will take effect Friday, with officials re-evaluating if it should continue in mid-January.
In addition to potentially limiting non-essential procedures, the order will also allow New York to expedite the purchase of essential supplies to fight the virus.
The World Health Organization designated a new strain of the novel coronavirus as the Omicron variant. Health officials also have expressed concerns about the new variant’s potency and how the vaccines respond to it.
“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 state reported 6,295 new positive cases on Friday, with a statewide positivity rate of 3.45%. Over the last seven days, the average positivity rate has been 3.82%, but that varies wildly between the regions. Western New York reported a 9.67% rate for Thursday, compared to just 1.65 percent for New York City.
According to numbers released Friday, 73.9% of all New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 66.2% have received a complete dosage. Nearly 29.5 million shots have been administered in the state, including 2.2 million booster doses.
In addition to the vaccine, Hochul urged residents to follow other steps to stop the spread, including wearing masks indoors and washing hands regularly.
Hochul, a Democrat who plans to run for a full term as governor next year, received criticism about the order from her likely Republican opponent, provided she secures the nomination.
In a tweet that included his campaign’s statement, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin said Hochul’s order was a “terrible play call” to limit services, especially after the governor’s order mandating vaccines for healthcare workers created staffing shortages.
“Throughout the pandemic, New Yorkers had to limit their doctor visits and elected procedures with increased risk and harm related to major long-term negative health consequences,” the Long Island congressman said. “Going backwards now to limit necessary health services will result in massive negative harm that absolutely must be avoided.”
This article was originally posted on Hochul signs order to limit non-essential New York hospital care as Omicron variant looms