WXXI AM News

Some New Yorkers could receive elective surgeries soon

Apr 20, 2020

Governor Andrew Cuomo, right, speaks at the daily COVID-19 briefing on Monday. Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker is at left.
Credit Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

The number of deaths from COVID-19 in New York continues to decline but remains at a high level, with 478 New Yorkers losing their lives to the disease on Sunday. More than 16,000 people are still in the hospital.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is still not close to reopening, though he said he might ease the ban on elective surgeries for some parts of the state.  

Cuomo said the surgeries could resume at upstate hospitals in counties where at least 25% of hospital beds are unoccupied and less than 10 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 in the past 10 days. Many hospitals in regions north of New York City have not seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, although some regions, like the Buffalo area, are not due to see their peak until early June.

Monroe County had more than 90 people hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment when the governor made his announcement Tuesday. The last time the county had fewer than 10 new hospitalizations for the disease in a 10 day span was more than a month ago.

Because of the ban on elective surgeries and the reduction in routine doctors' appointments, several upstate hospitals have had to furlough hundreds of workers. 

"We're at a point where some of the upstate hospitals have significant financial burdens because they are not doing the elective surgeries," Cuomo said. "Which is one of the places where they make money, frankly." 

But the governor said any increase in procedures not related to COVID-19 needs to be carefully calibrated to make sure hospitals have room if there's a sudden surge of the disease. 

Cuomo said the reopening of the economy is still weeks away; the current stay-at-home order lasts until May 15. And he said without an effective treatment or vaccine, resuming activities like going to the beach or concerts or holding parades could create a "magnet" for the virus to gain strength. 

The governor also cast doubt on schools reopening any time soon, saying new protocols for disinfecting and social distancing would need to be set. Cuomo, who said Saturday that he might consider opening parts of upstate sooner, now said there needs to be one strategy for all of New York. 

"Everything is closed unless we say otherwise," Cuomo said.

The governor also addressed a small minority of people who have held protests about the statewide shutdown orders, and who are planning a return to the state Capitol on Wednesday.

"Nobody disagrees that we want to get out of this situation," Cuomo said. "You don't need protests to convince anyone in this country that we have to get back to work, and we have to get the economy going and we have to get out of our homes." 

The timetable for reopening society hinges on the availability of tests, both for determining who has the disease, and who has the antibodies to show that they have recovered from the virus. 

Cuomo placated President Donald Trump, saying the president is right to say testing is the state's responsibility. He said states need to coordinate the testing, but he said without federal control of national and international supply chains for materials, testing will remind a "quagmire."

The governor said a program continues to randomly test 3,000 New Yorkers at supermarkets for the presence of antibodies, to get a sense of what percentage of the population may have already had coronavirus. 

And Cuomo said the state is willing to take over the labor-intensive process of contact tracing, which if there are enough tests, could also help to contain outbreaks of the virus.