Cuomo says even if New York’s COVID-19 numbers rise, advances lessen concern about overwhelming hospital ICU units

By Steve Bittenbender | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – While New York officials will pay close attention to hospitalization rates in the coming days and weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Friday afternoon that the battle with COVID-19 will be different from the one waged back in the spring.

Andrew Cuomo/Photo by Shinya Suzuki on Flickr (CC 2.0 license)

Back in the early days of the pandemic, a quarter of those hospitalized with the virus went to the intensive care unit. Of those in ICU, 85 percent were intubated, which caused the ventilator shortage the state faced in March and April.

Now, Cuomo said, the ICU rate has dropped from 25 percent to 18 percent. In addition, those needing intubation have dropped to 45 percent.

Also, the average length of stay for a COVID-19 patient has dropped by more than half from 11 days in April to the current five days. The death rate, once at 23 percent, has dropped to just 8 percent.

“So, God bless the medical professionals who have learned more about how to treat COVID, have more therapeutics, have better medicines, and better practices,” the governor said.

Cuomo said he’s asked if the virus has “weakened,” but noted he’s gotten no answer. Still, he called that movement “significant.”

Even as those numbers indicate positive trends, New York officials are still pursuing another “flex and surge” initiative that will open up hospital beds and add more, potentially taking the state from 53,000 to 75,000.

In western New York, where hospitals are facing the most stress right now in the state, a ban on elective surgeries took effect Friday. Cuomo has also indicated the state may issue similar orders elsewhere should hospitalization rates continue to rise.

Prior to the call with reporters, Cuomo, a Democrat who chairs the National Governors Association, issued a joint statement with Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the NGA’s vice chairman, calling for Congress to pass a COVID-19 relief bill that includes state funding before recessing for the holidays.

Cuomo has said states and localities need relief to fill budget deficits and to administer vaccines.

In Friday’s statement, the governors said they supported “as an interim measure” a $908 billion plan put forward by a bipartisan group of senators and the House Problem Solvers Caucus.

“We look forward to working with Congress and the new Administration in the new year on a more comprehensive COVID relief package,” Cuomo and Hutchinson said.

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