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Cuomo predicts: New York won't shut down again -- and Bills will make playoffs

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds a storm briefing in Kingston on Thursday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday predicted that New York will not see a second economic shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also offered some tongue-in-cheek projections about another event: the final games of the NFL season and the fate of the Buffalo Bills.

The governor spent the week backing away from statements he made on Monday, when he warned that the state was headed for a second shutdown, similar to the one last spring, to keep the coronavirus from spreading further.

The governor now said that even with the expected increase in social gatherings during the upcoming holidays, he does not think more economic restrictions will be necessary. He said he believes people in the state learned something from the post-Thanksgiving surge in the infection rate, and will be more careful this time around.

“I think you’ll see a smarter response through the holidays,” Cuomo said. “So, I believe we can avoid a shutdown.”

The governor’s statements are in contrast to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has said he believes trends show there will need to be another shutdown in January, when the full effects of virus transmission during holiday gatherings are felt.

New York state is also using new metrics to measure whether a lockdown is warranted.

Earlier in the fall, the governor and his health officials attempted to designate regions with spiking COVID-19 rates as microcluster hot zones, with corresponding restrictions on public gatherings and businesses. But with the state’s average positivity rate for the virus now above 5% for the past several days, that model would have led to a statewide shutdown.

The state is instead making its decisions based on hospital capacity. The new rules say that when a region’s hospital beds are projected to be 85% full within three weeks’ time, then the region would have to shut down. Cuomo said as of now, no hospitals in any part of the state believe that will happen, meaning a shutdown can be avoided until at least early January.

“No hospital in the state believes that they are going to hit 85% by Jan. 8,” Cuomo said. “That’s good news.”

More than 6,000 New Yorkers are in the hospital with COVID-19, and more than 1,000 are in intensive care units. On Thursday, 120 people died of the disease.

In a statement, Ken Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, sided with Cuomo. Raske said if it appears that public health would be compromised by keeping the economy open, then “we would be the first to call for a shutdown of the economy.” 

But, he said, “we are not at that point, nor do we see that point in the foreseeable future.”

Cuomo, an avid football fan, joked with reporters that he is placing two bets on events in the upcoming days.

“I will bet you the Bills make the playoff,” said Cuomo. “And I would wager New York does not shut down.”

But the governor, despite his optimism on avoiding a statewide shutdown, said he’s not yet ready to allow Buffalo Bills fans back into the stadium to watch their team in the playoffs, should they win a slot.

He said any decision would depend on the rate of the virus in western New York. The Buffalo region had the highest rate of infection of anywhere in the state this fall, but the rate has been declining there, and virus numbers in the Syracuse and Rochester areas now surpass those of that region.