ALBANY — As several New York hospitals got the state's first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine for coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Monday that the potential for a second economic shutdown will grow as hospitals fill up with infected patients.
And in the immediate aftermath of the holiday season — perhaps as early as a month from now — New York could have as many as 11,000 people hospitalized as a result of the contagion, he said.
Meanwhile, an estimated 10,000 doses of the newly approved vaccine were administered to health care workers across the state Monday.
Cuomo predicted that reaching the "critical mass" of vaccinated people to curb the spread could take six to nine months, with public opinion surveys suggesting about half the population is hesitant about the vaccine.
"Bottom line is we’re going to have to manage the spread and the hospital capacity" while the vaccination effort is carried out at 90 locations spread across the state, he said.
"The vaccine is only good if people take it," he added.
Given the current trajectory of the spread, Cuomo suggested New York could experience an additional 3,500 COVID-19 fatalities beyond the more than 26,000 to date.
The region with both the highest hospitalization rate and the highest test positivity rate was the Finger Lakes. Cuomo noted that based on the data, the spread may be tapering off in Western New York, which in recent weeks has been at or near the top of the regions where the virus rates were most elevated.
"The increase in hospitalizations could overwhelm some regions if nothing changes by January," he said.
Hospital administrators, working with the state Health Department, have been attempting to balance the load of new patients by shifting some from facilities where beds are filling up to those with more room for people needing care.
According to the latest state data, a total of 5,712 people were in hospitals Monday after testing positive for coronavirus. Since Sunday, the state's fatality total from the pandemic grew by a total of 83.
One of the upstate region's largest health care facilities, Albany Medical Center, reported more than 80% of its employees have signaled they want to be vaccinated.
The Albany hospital received 975 doses of the vaccine Monday.
"While it is not mandated, employees are strongly encouraged to receive the vaccine," said Dr. Dennis McKenna, Albany Med's president. "Even after vaccination, all safety precautions and current COVID-19 protocols, including masking, social distancing, handwashing and visitor limitations, will continue to be required."
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at email@example.com