Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a briefing at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center Monday afternoon that Western New York is doing much better in dealing with COVID-19 than it has been. He said that means the ban on elective surgery has been lifted and the state Health Department on Wednesday may ease the restrictions of Orange status for most of the region.
Winter has brought New York's worst stretch of the coronavirus crisis since May, with at least 4,800 dead from the virus in the past 30 days. But some numbers are improving, including plenty of capacity in regional hospitals.
Doctors have been writing to the governor, pleading with him to lift the ban on elective surgery. With the ban now lifted, hospitals are rushing to get patients prepared for surgery.
The vice president of the Erie County Medical Society said "elective" is a really misleading term. Anesthesiologist Dr. Rose Berkun said delay can make sick patients even sicker.
"If they don’t have that surgery -- somebody has a gall bladder issue and delayed by one month or by two months -- that becomes an acute issue at some point, where the patient will have a burst gall bladder and get really sick," Berkun said, "and that can lead to terrible complications and in-patient visits, hospitalization."
Cuomo said the big problem across New York now is that hospitals can’t seem to vaccinate its own workers.
"Roswell Park, 88 (%). Highest number in Western New York. Congratulations to Roswell Park," Cuomo said. "I guess 12% said, 'I don't want to take it.' When you get to Children's Hospital, it's 42%."
Cuomo says the continuing problems with vaccine supply don’t appear to be although, he will be talking with Biden Administration officials Tuesday morning, along with all other governors. He said doling out shots week by week does not allow planning for their use.
The state on Monday unveiled a new online Vaccine Tracker, a dashboard reporting the number of 1st and 2nd dose vaccinations distributed and administered across the state, as well as the number of doses allotted to New York. It reports more than 130,000 1st doses given in Western New York so far.
Cuomo clearly sees the Biden Administration as the solution to some of New York’s major problems, particularly vaccine shortages and the state’s deficit.
Many of the state’s problems are interlinked and that is true of most states. Some are particular to the Empire State, like the federal removal of the tax break which used to help pay local property taxes. That adds a lot to the local tax burden and is possibly driving people to lower tax states.
Cuomo wants the aid to state and local governments in the Biden stimulus bill now being fought over in Washington.
"The state has a very big deficit," he said. "If I have a deficit, we have to cut. If we cut, we have to lay off essential workers. We don’t want to do that in the middle of a pandemic. We have a $15 billion cost from the COVID crisis."
WBFO's Marian Hetherly contributed to this story.