Fauci Warns of ‘Dark January’ Amid N.Y. Hospital Capacity Fears

Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, warned that the Christmas season could be worse than Thanksgiving for fueling the spread of Covid-19.

“Without substantial mitigation, the middle of January could be a really dark time for us,” Fauci said at a news briefing held by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday.

Fauci Warns of ‘Dark January’ Amid N.Y. Hospital Capacity Fears

The full effect of the holiday travel season and family gatherings from Thanksgiving will come at the same time people are celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah. “You have a surge upon a surge,” he said.

Fauci applauded Cuomo’s actions in New York, in particular the state’s contingency plans allowing it to quickly increase hospital capacity if needed.

The state will be closely watching hospitalization data over the next five days, Cuomo said. If numbers don’t stabilize, indoor dining in New York City will be shut down, he said, citing new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indoor dining in other parts of the state would go down to 25% capacity from 50%, with the exception of hot-spot areas where indoor dining is already closed.

Restaurant Closures

Cuomo said he doesn’t expect hospitalizations to stabilize this week, and the restaurant closures would likely happen as soon as Monday.

The state also is watching each region’s seven-day average hospitalization growth rate, he said. If the rate shows the region will hit critical capacity of 90% within three weeks, the region will be closed, Cuomo said. All hospitals statewide must increase their bed capacity by 25% as the state continues to see hospitalizations rising, he said.

There were 4,602 hospitalizations on Sunday, up 160 from the day prior, according to state data. Of the more than 152,000 tests conducted statewide, 4.79% were positive, including hot-spot areas. There were 80 virus-related fatalities on Sunday, the most since May.

The state is asking retired doctors and nurses to help, Cuomo said. It will automatically register them into the system without cost, he said. This action is expected to bring in another 20,000 doctors and nurses to help with staffing.

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