State’s winter plan calls for open schools, fair vaccination, and enough hospital beds

— Photo from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Once there is a vaccine for COVID-19, the first New Yorkers to receive it will be health-care workers in patient-care settings as well as long-term-care facility workers and the at-risk patients in those facilities, according to the state’s plan released in October.

While distributing Thanksgiving turkeys at a church in Rochester on Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo made mention of a winter plan being prepared to deal with COVID-19.

In the last month, Cuomo has frequently said that experts predicted the spike now underway as schools reopened and people moved indoors.

“We had a summer phase, we had a fall phase which we’re in, and we’re going to move into a winter phase and the experts have advised us to prepare a plan for the winter and that’s what we’re going to be doing,” Cuomo said.

He added that the plan will apply to December, January, and February.

The highest infection rates and the highest hospitalization rates will be prioritized, Cuomo said, since the “greatest fear is you overwhelm the hospital system.”

A field hospital has already been opened on Staten Island, he said.

Cuomo, who chairs the National Governors Association, said, “I’ve been talking to governors across the nation” and that they are starting to open field hospitals again “reminiscent of the bad old days.”

“Second in the preparation of the winter plan, we want schools open, K-8,” said Cuomo. The infection rate in those grades, he said, “is generally lower than the local community, so you want children in school because it’s safer, not to mention they’re getting an education, their parents can go to work, et cetera.”

This wouldn’t apply to schools serving students in ninth through 12 grades, Cuomo said earlier, as their infection rates are higher.

“So, how can we get schools open safely and keep them open safely with the amount of testing necessary to keep them open and safe?” he said, naming one of the challenges the winter plan will address.

The third part of the winter plan, Cuomo said, is to “move towards operationalizing the vaccine.”

“Everyone talks about the vaccine like it’s a silver bullet,” said Cuomo. But, he said, administering the vaccine “is much easier said than done.”

He reiterated his concerns that it has taken the nation nine months to administer 180 million COVID-19 tests while 330 vaccinations — given twice — will be required.

The current federal Trump administration plan has states responsible for distribution. “The states are going to need funding,” said Cuomo.

He also reiterated his concern that citizens are skeptical of getting vaccinated so a state panel was set up to “affirm the federal approval to try to give people comfort.”

Finally, Cuomo reiterated his concerns that “Black, Brown, poor, and rural communities”— he added rural — can be health-care deserts where people wouldn’t have access to facilities, under the current plan, to get vaccinated.

That is what has caused the disparity in the death rate from COVID-19, he said.

“Two times more Blacks died than whites from COVID. One and a half times more Browns died from COVID than whites,” said Cuomo. “Look at that disparity. Why? More Blacks, Brown and poor people had underlying health conditions, because there are health disparities in this nation.”

Cuomo said that on Wednesday afternoon, as chairman of the National Governors Association, he would “speak again with the Joe Biden COVID advisory team..”

“And I’m going to be talking to them about just this,” said Cuomo. “How hard it is for the states to actually administer the COVID vaccine program, and what states actually need to do. But, I can tell you it's going to be much harder than anticipated.”


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