Governor Revises Micro-Cluster Strategy, Announces New Hospital Surge Planning Measures

Situation Report | December 7, 2020

On November 30, Governor Cuomo announced a revision in the state’s “micro-cluster” strategy to utilize additional, hospital-related metrics.

Cluster zones are geographic areas where certain restrictions are imposed on non-essential businesses, restaurants/taverns and bars, religious institutions, and schools due to COVID-19.

The state Department of Health (DOH) will now include factors such as regional hospital bed capacity, Intensive Care Unit 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.

In addition, DOH has begun to initiate emergency hospital measures to prepare the state’s hospital system for an expected surge in new admissions over the upcoming weeks. Specifically, hospital systems must:

  • Begin to identify retired nurses and doctors to bolster staff.
  • Suspend elective surgeries in Erie County to create new bed capacity for COVID-19 patients.
  • Begin balancing patient loads across their individual hospital facilities.
  • Prepare plans to utilize emergency field hospitals, increase hospital bed capacity by 50 percent and implement statewide “Surge and Flex” operations (similar to load balancing, but patient shifts would occur across all hospital systems, as opposed to within individual hospital systems).
  • Prepare plans to staff emergency field hospitals.
  • Confirm availability of resources in existing stockpiles.