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NY winter virus plan will eye hospitalizations, ICU beds

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NEW YORK (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that officials are working on a winter plan for the coronavirus that will add metrics for how the state designates virus hot zones.

Cuomo said the state will continue homing in on small geographic areas where virus cases are a particular problem to avoid imposing broad statewide restrictions, considering factors such as the hospitalization rate and the availability of ICU beds.

“We’re going to stay with the micro-cluster approach because that targets the spread, minimizes economic impact and stresses individual and community accountability,” the governor said. “That’s working very well, and all the experts think that is state-of-the-art.”

Cuomo spoke a day after the state recorded nearly 7,000 new coronavirus cases and 67 new deaths — 15 of which occurred in Erie County, which includes Buffalo and has continued to see spiking numbers.

As coronavirus cases continued to climb, organizers of SantaCon said Thursday that the annual holiday flash-mob-meets-pub-crawl in New York City that was scheduled for next month has been canceled.

“All of the reindeer got the ’rona,” a post of the event’s website says, “so the elves have advised Santa to hold off on the in-person merriment.”

Still, Cuomo insisted New York is “doing phenomenally well” compared to the rest of the country.

The Democrat said New York’s winter plan will also look at ways to keep schools open by evaluating a safe positivity rate as well as determining the levels of testing at schools needed over the winter months. The winter plan also will outline how vaccines will be distributed as they become available.

On Wednesday, a 5-4 Supreme Court decision barred the state from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas that had been labelled as virus hot zones. The high court sided with religious organizations in the state who said that while attendance was limited for worshippers, other businesses in state-designated red zones could remain open without capacity limits.

Cuomo said the ruling was “irrelevant from any practical impact” since the red zone restrictions have been removed, and it was “more illustrative of the Supreme Court than anything else.”

“Why rule on a case that is moot and come up with a different decision than you did several months ago on the same issue? You have a different court. And I think that was the statement that the court was making,” he said.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn’s Catholic diocese hailed the ruling, saying the limitations don’t “really make sense when you look at the volume of space we have in our churches.”

“Our diocese has been very strict in the enforcement of the rules that keep people safe,” DiMarzio told reporters. “We in no way want people to get sick in our churches.”