Cuomo says full-scale N.Y. shutdown likely if COVID trajectory doesn’t improve

New York could be headed for a spring-style shutdown of all non-essential businesses and services if the state’s coronavirus metrics do not improve over the next few weeks, Gov. Cuomo warned Monday.

With hospitalization, infection and death rates continuing to tick up, Cuomo floated the potential shutdown order after laying out a bleak projection in which 3,500 more New Yorkers would die from COVID-19 in the next month while another 11,000 would end up hospitalized.

“If we do not change that trajectory, we could very well be heading toward shutdown,” he said in a virtual briefing from Albany. “That is really something to worry about.”

Cuomo contrasted the economic devastation of a full-scale shutdown against that of some recently re-implemented restrictions on businesses, like the indoor dining ban that took effect in New York City on Monday.

“You should be happy, because if we don’t change the trajectory, we’re going to go to shutdown and then your business will be closed,” he said. “All non-essential businesses closed. They go to zero.”

Cuomo’s dire warning came after another 83 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 on Sunday, putting the state’s total death count at 35,288, according to State Health Department data.

The data also showed that the number of hospitalizations statewide surged to 5,712, with 1,857 patients in the five boroughs alone. The statewide test positivity rate rose up to 5.6%, according to the data.

Unlike the COVID-19 outbreaks during the spring peak of the pandemic, an overwhelming 74% of current infections are traced back to small domestic social gatherings — so-called “living room spread.”

“Welcome to the holiday season,” Cuomo said grimly.

Gov. Cuomo seen in his office on Monday watching a Queens nurse receiving the first FDA-approved dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S.
Gov. Cuomo seen in his office on Monday watching a Queens nurse receiving the first FDA-approved dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

In order to avoid a full-scale shutdown like the “PAUSE” order enforced in the spring, Cuomo pleaded with New Yorkers to avoid even small social gatherings with people from outside of their immediate households during the holiday season.

He also suggested that hospitals across the state prepare contingency plans for how to work together if any given facility approaches full capacity.

“They operate unto themselves. That does not work here,” he said. “That was the spring.”

Mayor de Blasio, speaking at a briefing from City Hall earlier in the day, echoed the governor’s points about a shutdown.

“There’s a potential of having to do a full pause, a full shutdown, in the coming weeks because we can’t let this kind of momentum go,” the mayor said.

The unsettling remarks from the mayor and the governor came amid a positive development on another COVID-19 front.

The first dose of a federally-authorized coronavirus vaccine was administered to a Queens nurse on Monday morning, marking the beginning of an epic inoculation campaign unmatched in size and scope in American history.

Cuomo said about 10,000 New Yorkers were expected to be injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday, with hundreds of thousands of more doses expected over the next month.

High-risk health care workers, nursing home residents and staff are first in line for vaccinations. Front-line essential workers like teachers, cops and firefighters, as well as people with pre-existing health conditions, are second on the list, followed by the general population.

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