ALBANY — Preparing for a potential worsening of the COVID pandemic, Gov. Kathy Hochul laid the groundwork Friday for emergency measures to accommodate more infected patients in hospitals.
Her executive order will allow the state Department of Health to order a halt to non-urgent, non-essential medical procedures in hospitals as soon as Dec. 3, if deemed necessary.
The order also will allow the state to acquire any critical supplies it needs.
“We’ve taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic,” Hochul said in a prepared statement. “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.”
This third surge of the pandemic is hitting upstate regions much harder than downstate, where so many people were infected and died in early 2020.
New infections per capita confirmed in the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley are running more than triple the rate of New York City this week.
Meanwhile, the COVID-positive patient census in Capital Region hospitals jumped from 193 to 261 in the seven days ended Wednesday.
Hospitals have already begun warning of the overload that Hochul addressed Friday. And the relatively easy response — add more beds, as done in early 2020 — may not be enough this time. It’s caregivers who are in short supply, not beds.
Earlier this week, Glens Falls Hospital was the first hospital in the Capital Region to sound the alarm, saying it was past capacity with 206 inpatients, 51 of them COVID-positive.
Glens Falls is licensed for 390 beds, nearly double its patient census that day. But it doesn’t have enough employees to care for 390 patients — even 206 was proving to be a strain.
For much of 2021, caregivers and support personnel have been quitting hospitals in droves, many of them burned out by the physical and emotional stress of a year of COVID.
More recently, others quit or were fired because they refused the vaccine mandates imposed by their employer and/or the state.
Glens Falls has 200 job openings. Most other hospitals in the area have scores or hundreds of job vacancies as well.
Here are the average positive test rates and number of new infections per 100,000 population per day over the last seven days in local counties, regions and the state:
- ALBANY 5.0% 34.4
- COLUMBIA 7.9% 43.2
- FULTON 10.9% 72.0
- GREENE 7.2% 40.9
- MONTGOMERY 10.2% 64.7
- RENSSELAER 6.1% 54.4
- SARATOGA 7.5% 70.9
- SCHENECTADY 6.7% 60.0
- SCHOHARIE 9.1% 41.8
- WARREN 9.4% 90.5
- WASHINGTON 11.9% 109.0
- CAPITAL REGION 7.0% 57.1
- MOHAWK VALLEY 7.7% 62.6
- NEW YORK STATE 3.8% 34.0