New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday the state could close indoor dining in New York City and slash capacity elsewhere across the state if current hospitalization trends continue.
The state currently allows New York City restaurants to operate indoor dining at 25% capacity. Elsewhere in New York state, restaurants can operate indoor dining at 50% capacity.
But if the New York City hospitalization rate fails to stabilize after five days, the state could close indoor dining in New York City as soon as Monday, Cuomo said. And if hospitalizations continue to rise elsewhere, Cuomo said, indoor dining would be reduced to 25% capacity. He added that it's not inevitable that hospitalizations will continue to rise, but he believes they will.
"We're going to clamp down on indoor dining. Five days, if the hospitalization rate doesn't stabilize in New York City, we're going to close indoor dining," he said at a news briefing. "Do I believe between now and five days we'll see a stabilization rate in New York City? I would be pleasantly surprised. I don't think it is probable, but it is possible."
Cuomo cited updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was published last week, which he said urged additional caution on indoor dining as a source of spread. Cuomo urged people to adjust their behavior to help bring the outbreak under control.
He reiterated that even more restrictions will be necessary if hospitals reach a critical point. Cuomo said that if a region is projected to hit a 90% capacity level, based on the seven-day average hospitalization rate, within three weeks, the state will implement a "shutdown" on the region.
All the new restrictions are meant to protect hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, Cuomo said. Last month, Cuomo said the state was implementing emergency hospital protocol in preparation for what's expected to be a sustained surge through January. On Monday, Cuomo added that he is ordering hospitals to increase bed capacity by at least 25% and asking for retired nurses and doctors "to return to service."
"Let's look at the big picture. We are looking at hospitalization capacity, and if we don't get the rate under control, you are going to overwhelm your hospitals. We will have to go back to shutdown," he said.
"You can't overwhelm the hospital system. Overwhelming the hospital system means people die on a gurney in a hallway. And the life you could have saved, you can't save, because you don't have the staff, you don't have the doctor, you don't have the nurse, and people die unnecessarily."