Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement on Friday that indoor dining in New York City would be curtailed as of Monday is the latest manifestation of a worsening Covid-19 crisis in the state, but he emphasized that “living room spread” of the coronavirus, resulting from small residential gatherings, represents the majority of new infections.
“Hospitalizations have continued to increase in New York City,” the governor said in remarks to the press on Friday. “We said if the hospitalization rate didn’t stabilize we would close indoor dining.” Outside New York City and particularly in “orange” zones — geographic areas designated to restrict activity to monitor metrics and prevent further spread — “we’re going to watch the indoor dining data” over the weekend and make any adjustments next week.
“Being designated a zone is a clear message to the community,” he said. “And it means you have to take it seriously.”
“The federal government must provide relief to these bars and restaurants in this next package,” he said of an expected stimulus package.
But small residential gatherings account for the bulk of new infections, the governor said. “In many ways, you can understand what happened,” he said. “Close bars, restaurants, theaters, stadiums, mass gatherings — where do people go? They go home: ‘Come to my house.’ . . . Compound that with the holiday season. That is what is driving these numbers.”
Compliance with protocols has also slipped, owing to “Covid fatigue,” the holiday season, and the knowledge that “a vaccine is coming.”
The governor announced an overall statewide positive infection rate of 4.9 percent based on 212,000 tests conducted. Within micro-cluster zones of higher coronavirus transmission, the rate is 6.8 percent. Excluding those zones, it is 4.5 percent.
The number of New Yorkers hospitalized with Covid-19 stands at 5,300, the governor said, with 1,007 patients in an intensive care unit, 546 of them intubated. Eighty-seven deaths from Covid-19 were recorded.
The state must prosecute “three Covid operations” simultaneously, he said: managing hospital capacity, slowing the spread of the virus, and “being as aggressive as we can on vaccinations. We want to be the most efficient and effective in the United States in terms of vaccinations.”
To that end, he said that 170,000 doses from Pfizer should be delivered on Sunday or Monday. Another 346,000 doses of a vaccine from Moderna are expected during the week of Dec. 21. “The vaccine is coming,” he said, “and we’re ready to administer it.”
But December and January will be grim, he predicted. “It has been quite the journey and isn’t over. It’s not going to be over until summer and we hit critical mass with vaccinations.” Until then, “We have to calibrate our way through the journey. . . . We hope that you’ll see a stabilization in mid to late January.” The tail end of a “Thanksgiving surge” resulting from travel and residential gatherings may have arrived, but Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve are likely to bring yet another surge in infection. “By the time that tails off, we’re talking mid to late January.”
The governor said that schools are “almost without exception safer than the wider community in terms of infection rate. This was not what was initially expected. . . . My point: If it’s safer for the children to be in school, then have the children in school,” but those decisions have been left to local districts.
Gyms and hair salons have also proven to be lesser venues for coronavirus transmission than earlier in the pandemic, he said.
Among other positive developments are a death rate from Covid-19 infection that has fallen dramatically since the spring, and an average length of hospitalization that has fallen from 11 days in the spring to five today. “The medical community has made the most progress over the past few months,” the governor said, not only in the development of a vaccine but in therapeutics to treat the virus.