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Cuomo Says NYC Indoor Dining Could Be Shut Down This Week

N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Mike Groll
Office of N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo
N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York state could place new limits on indoor dining if hospitalization rates from COVID-19 don’t stabilize over the next five days, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday, marking another phase in the latest surge of the virus.

In the case of New York City, indoor dining could be shut down altogether, Cuomo said, while it could be capped at 25% capacity in other areas of the state.

“We’re going to watch the hospitalization rate over the next five days,” Cuomo said. “That would take effect within a couple of days, we’d give restaurants a couple of days to reorient.”

Cuomo said that he doesn’t expect the hospitalization rate to stabilize in New York in that time, meaning the new limits will more than likely take effect at the beginning of next week unless the state decides otherwise. Each region’s hospitalization rate will be evaluated individually.

To prepare for the continued surge, Cuomo, on Monday, also ordered hospitals statewide to increase the number of beds they have available by 25%. That will raise the number of hospital beds in New York from 53,000 to about 66,000.

Cuomo also called on retired nurses and doctors to re-enter the medical workforce if they’re able, as they did during the state’s first wave of the virus, in anticipation of a greater need for staff statewide.

“Overwhelming the hospital system means people die on a gurney in a hallway, and the life you could’ve saved you can’t save because you don’t have the staff, you don’t have the doctors, you don’t have the nurses, and people die unnecessarily,” Cuomo said.

If the data shows that a region will hit critical hospital capacity within three weeks, meaning hospitals will be completely overwhelmed in that time, the state will enact broader shutdowns similar to what was enacted in the spring, Cuomo said.

As of now, the state has suspected a large share of the COVID-19 spread of coming from small, private gatherings at peoples’ homes. Those gatherings are currently capped at 10 people, per the state’s guidance.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, who joined Cuomo Monday for his COVID-19 briefing, said a cap of 10 people might even be high, considering the continued spread of the virus.

"I think that's a very sound rule, and that 10 might even be a bit too much," Fauci said.

Fauci, who’s clashed at times with members of the Trump administration over which regulations should be enacted to address the pandemic, also signaled support for Cuomo’s latest strategy for tamping down the virus, including limits on indoor dining and gatherings.

Fauci said New York’s model of boosting hospital capacity, while considering new restrictions on public and private gatherings, will insulate the state from a larger outbreak in the coming weeks.

“It seems really sound and you have a lot of backup contingencies, which I like,” Fauci said. “So, you’re not going to get caught short-handed on this, I’m certain.”

But Fauci warned that the country still hasn’t seen the full results of the spread that happened over the Thanksgiving holiday due to families coming together, and that it likely won’t be until the middle of January until there’s a peak in holiday-related spread.

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.