December 1, 2020 8:30 am – Winter Plan

Good morning:  We hope everyone had a safe and healthy Thanksgiving.  With the passing of the Thanksgiving holiday, state and local health officials are bracing for the next phase of the pandemic as individuals look to spend time with family during the holiday season.  Steuben County Public Health wants to remind everyone that COVID-19 does not move by itself. People move COVID through their choices, the places they go, and through the people they meet and spend time with. The less we travel and gather with others, the less chance there is to spread COVID.

Yesterday, New York State announced its plan for combating COVID-19 this winter.  Specifically, the winter plan consists of five targeted strategies focused on mitigating the spread of the virus and bolstering New York State hospital preparedness including:

Strategy 1 – Continue and Strengthen New York’s Targeted Micro-Cluster Strategy while Managing Hospital Capacity to Enhance and Equalize Care

Under New York’s Winter COVID-19 Plan, New York’s micro-cluster strategy will be strengthened through the utilization of additional, hospital-related metrics to provide a clearer picture of where a particular zone stands in the fight against COVID. Under this improved strategy, the New York State Department of Health will include factors such as regional hospital bed capacity, ICU capacity, staffing ratios, and daily hospital admissions as part of the analysis and metrics used to determine which geographic areas qualify as micro-cluster zones. In addition to the three existing micro-cluster zone levels (Yellow Precautionary, Orange Warning and Red), New York will also add a new ‘Emergency Stop’ level, which will effectively put that area under the NY Pause guidelines if needed to preserve hospital capacity. Hospital metrics associated with these zones will be identified in the next week to 10 days once data from the Thanksgiving holiday is received and analyzed.

Strategy 2 – Increase and Balance Testing Resources and Availability

Under the Winter Plan, New York State will take steps to increase the amount of testing available statewide, but do so in a way that ensures distribution is balanced with testing sufficient across different segments of the population, including:

  • Healthcare workers;
  • Nursing homes;
  • Schools;
  • Essential workers;
  • Business professionals;
  • Personal services testing; and
  • General population, returning students and travelers, etc.

Strategy 3 – Keep Schools Open Safely

Under New York’s Winter Plan, efforts will be focused on keeping K-8 and Special Education schools open as long as it can be done safely. The first step will be to establish sustainable, ongoing testing in schools so that they can continue operating in the long term. As part of this, schools located in Orange and Red micro-cluster zones will be required to conduct weekly testing. Schools in Orange Zones will be required to test 20% of in person students, faculty, and staff over the course of a month and schools in Red Zones will be required to test 30% of in person students, faculty, and staff over a month. Pool testing will be allowed as well.

Strategy 4 – Prevent Viral Spread from Small Gatherings

Small gatherings have now been identified as the number one spreader of COVID-19, with at least 65 percent of all cases coming from these settings. While government’s ability to monitor small gatherings is limited, public education on the safety concerns of small gatherings is crucial.  New York State will be launching a public education campaign to highlight how small gatherings can lead to the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Strategy 5 – Operationalize an Equitable and Safe Vaccination Program

While a vaccine is expected to be released in the coming weeks, it will be months before a critical mass of available vaccinations for the general public will be available. As the state builds its plan to distribute vaccinations, it will be founded on three main pillars:

  • Fairness;
  • Equity; and
  • Safety.

These pillars are critical to ensuring a fair distribution of the vaccine.

Each of these strategies could ultimately impact your business operation and we encourage you to learn more about the strategies here.