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NEW YORK CITY — A Grinch is stalking New York City and the rest of the state this holiday season: the coronavirus.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo drew the comparison Monday during a lengthy conference in which he outlined a five-part strategy for addressing an expected — and already-arrived — uptick in COVID-19 levels.
A fall spike in coronavirus levels likely will be compounded by a 37-day holiday season surge, Cuomo said. The uptick from Thanksgiving and going forward could be "dramatic" and last until mid-January, he predicted.
"COVID is the Grinch," he said.
Cuomo said hospital capacity is the state's top concern and outlined a potential return to a wide "PAUSE" lockdown if they're overwhelmed. He recounted how the virus's first wave in the spring overwhelmed Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.
The first of five new, state-directed strategies to stem another such surge will thus focus on hospitals, he said.
The state will add hospitalization rates to its color-coded, tiered "zone" system and could initiate a wider shutdown if levels reach a breaking point, he said.
On top of that, hospitals should either kick off or plan for emergency procedures including adding 50 percent bed capacity and preparing to share patients between different health systems.
Cuomo also detailed plans to address coronavirus testing fairly, keep schools open safely, distribute COVID-19 vaccines when they become available and curb small gatherings.
About 65 percent of new coronavirus cases can be traced to small gatherings, he said.
"There are just facts," he said.
The state will begin a public education campaign to bring awareness of the risks at small gatherings and that they're limited to no more than 10 people, Cuomo said.
Cuomo was joined by several local officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, who participated by video link.
It was the first time in months that Cuomo and de Blasio, who have had an adversarial relationship during the pandemic, appeared together at a news conference. Their normal tensions were replaced by an apparently-warm exchange in which Cuomo jokingly praised de Blasio for taking his call and talking through the new strategies with a "mouthful of turkey."
"I think you’re right to focus us on the holiday season,” de Blasio said to Cuomo.
Cuomo, in turn, praised de Blasio's recent decision to reopen schools for K-8 students.