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Gov. Cuomo says no elective surgeries in Erie County as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

Governor Cuomo announced that effective Friday, December 4 elective surgeries will be stopped in Erie County amid rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Steps that hospitals took during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic are now returning as hospitalizations across the state and in Western New York rise.

"In the new battlefield, hospital capacity is the top concern," said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

And as hospitalizations climb throughout the state and in Western New York, healthcare providers are being asked to do many of the things they did during the first wave, to increase capacity and try to limit stress on the healthcare system.

"Remember the first go around, it was primarily downstate we had upstate resources that we could send downstate it is not like that this time around it is statewide," Cuomo said.

Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul adds, “We have to address the shortage of hospital beds. We are not there yet but we are on a trend that is very disturbing. Right now we have about a 30-35 percent availability of hospital beds in Western New York. We need to get that higher."

Hospitals need to find retired medical professionals to help out existing staff – also increase bed capacity by 50 percent – and spread patients out evenly across their systems. Hospitals also need to spread patients out across their systems so hospitals are not overwhelmed. Just in Erie County, elective surgeries will stop on Friday, as a way to preserve beds.

"Erie County has the most critical hospital situation in the state," Cuomo said.

ECMC says it supports the state's action.

"What's happening here for us is simultaneously is we're also having an impact on our overall trauma and emergency patient visitations so it's sort of a double whammy at the moment," said Peter Cutler, vice president of communications for ECMC.

ECMC says the changes, reflecting steps taken during the first wave, is all about being ready for what's ahead.

"It's better right now to prepare and be prudent than to make a decision in the bottom of the ninth inning," Cutler said. 

The governor says he's more concerned about staff than he is about hospital beds, saying more beds can be created. Hospitalizations are now a new factor when determining a cluster zone, in addition to the infection rate, population and other factors. 

Kaleida Health released a statement Monday night.

“Our COVID-19 positive inpatient numbers continue to rise, consistent with what we are seeing across Western New York. At this time, we still have enough capacity to run day-to-day operations, which we are calling 'dual systems of care,'" said Kaleida Chief of Staff Michael Hughes.