BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — State leaders are afraid COVID-19 rates in New York will get worse before they get better, especially with winter right around the corner. On Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined the state's three part COVID-19 winter plan.
Under the plan, hospitalization rates and ICU capacity will be an added factor for determining yellow, orange, and red zones. The micro-cluster approach will remain.
“We want to add a number of factors to the yellow, orange, red," Cuomo said. "Criticality has to weigh hospital capacity and infection rate in a place that has a shortage of hospital beds is more serious than an infection rate in a place that has fewer hospital beds.”
Hospital rates in Erie County and the rest of Western New York are at the highest point ever.
COVID-19 patient data for Nov. 24: 337 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in WNY, 65 in the ICU. Erie Co. had 285 patients, 56 in the ICU, 23 on an airway assist, 5 died and 39% of the patients were aged 64 and under.— Mark Poloncarz (@markpoloncarz) November 26, 2020
Patient counts are all-time highs for WNY and Erie County. pic.twitter.com/6VGYRnPM4P
The second part is an emphasis on keeping schools open, particularly grades K-8. The CDC has advocated the opening of schools for months.
“All the data says the schools are safer than the surrounding community,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said there needs to be a level of testing that districts can sustain.
The current testing requirement is for schools in orange and red zones who want to remain open. Those schools have to test 100% of students and staff initially, and then 25% each week after.
Last week, Michael Cornell, the president of the Erie Niagara Superintendents Association called the current requirement difficult.
“Many of us don’t believe that it is logistically or financially feasible without a substantial amount of federal, state, and local support,” Cornell said.
Cuomo did not specify what school testing requirements would look like under the winter plan.
The final part is a vaccine distribution plan. As of now, New York has a five phase approach. The plan has some healthcare and nursing home workers in the first phase, various essential workers and at risk groups in the middle phases, and healthy adults and children in the final phase.
The state said it will work on the winter plan into next week.