The temporary hospital on the grounds of the South Beach Psychiatric Hospital cared for 200 patients in spring, when New York City's hospital wards were overwhelmed with seriously ill and dying coronavirus patients. Now, Cuomo said officials are concerned it might be needed again, as the virus has spread in the borough at a faster rate than in the rest of the city.
Staten Island has averaged 209 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the past seven days - up 86% from two weeks ago.
"The hospitals have contacted us and they say they need emergency beds on Staten Island," Cuomo told reporters at a briefing at his Manhattan office Monday. "Remember when we had to set up field hospitals, emergency hospitals for additional capacity? Well, that's what we have to do on Staten Island."
The southern part of Staten Island is now considered a COVID orange zone, Cuomo said.
The governor's announcement came as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio predicted the entire city was heading for an orange zone designation as early as next week.
The orange zone designation means schools, indoor dining, salons and gyms would all close. There would also be capacity limits inside houses of worship.
Coronavirus by zip code - Check New York City
Staten Island University Hospital's north campus reported 88 COVID-19 patients as of Saturday, taking up about one-fifth of the hospital's 472 beds, according to state data. That's more than triple the number it had on Nov. 1.
Cuomo said he is worried that news of vaccines passing clinical trials could give people a false sense of security about the need to still follow social distancing and mask rules during the holiday season.
"The vaccination is not going to be here in time to stop an increasing infection rate," he said.
A spokesperson for Richmond University Medical Center, a roughly 470-bed hospital on Staten Island, said the caseload there of around 19 coronavirus patients is manageable for now. That's up somewhat from the single-digit numbers that persisted throughout September and most of October, but nowhere near the 210 who were there at the high point in early April, Alex Lutz said.
"The hope is that, while the numbers are expected to increase, it will be a gradual increase, which would be much more manageable than it was in the spring," Lutz said, with clinicians and staffers able to draw on treatments and other knowledge that's built up since the initial surge.
New York state has averaged nearly 5,500 new cases per day over the past seven days. Hospitals and nursing homes have reported 665 COVID-19 deaths in the state over the past 30 days - more than in July, August and September combined.
Cuomo warned total New York hospitalizations could reach 6,000 in three weeks based on the current trends even without a Thanksgiving spike. He is urging people to avoid large gatherings over the holiday.
In additional to the southern part of Staten Island, the other half is a yellow zone. Upper Manhattan is going to become a yellow zone along with parts of Long Island. Parts of Erie and Westchester counties are on track to become a red zone, Cuomo said.
What those zones mean is listed below.
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Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio said that the city will be working to reopen schools, even as it heads towards the orange zone.
"We can and we will bring back our schools, it will take a lot of work. I just want people to understand that and begin, bringing back the school system next time, we'll take an extra effort, can be done will be done. And in the months ahead, we'll be able to do so much more as we started to feel the effects of a vaccine, reaching this city. Hopefully that starts in the next month or two," de Blasio said.
He said the priority will be on District 75 special education schools first, followed by 3K and Pre-K, and elementary students. He did not lay out a reopening plan for older students yet.
The mayor said that any students that return to hybrid blended learning would need to have a completed testing consent form.
MORE: Here's what each COVID zone in New York means:
YELLOW ZONE RULES IF POSITIVITY RATE IS 2.5%
- Houses of Worship: 50% capacity
- Mass gatherings: 25 people maximum
- Businesses: Open
- Dining: Indoor/Outdoor, 4-person max per table
- Schools: Open, mandatory 20% testing
ORANGE ZONE RULES IF POSITIVITY RATE IS 3.0%
- Houses of Worship: 33% capacity, 25 people maximum
- Mass gatherings: 10 people maximum, indoor and outdoor
- Businesses: Closing high-risk non-essential businesses such as gyms and personal care
- Dining: Outdoor dining only, 4-person maximum per table
- Schools: Remote with "test out" to open
RED ZONE RULES IF POSITIVITY RATE IS 3.0%
- Houses of Worship: 25% capacity, 10 people maximum
- Mass gatherings: Prohibited
- Businesses: Essential only
- Dining: Takeout/delivery only
- Schools: Remote with "test out" to open
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