NEW YORK (WWTI) — Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Friday that New York State is taking urging action to boost hospital capacity and address staffing shortages ahead of potential spikes in COVID-19 cases during this winter season.

The Department of Health will be permitted to limit non-essential and non-urgent procedures at hospitals or systems with limited capacity to protect access to critical care services. Limited capacity is defined as “below 10% bed capacity, or as determined by the Department of Health based on regional and health care utilization factors.”

The new protocols go into effect on December 3, 2021 and will be re-assessed based on the latest COVID-19 data on January 15, 2022. This Executive Order will also enable the state to acquire critical supplies more quickly to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a release from the governor’s office.

“We’ve taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic. However, we continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it’s coming,” Governor Hochul said. 

“In preparation, I am announcing urgent steps today to expand hospital capacity and help ensure our hospital systems can tackle any challenges posed by the pandemic as we head into the winter months. The vaccine remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic, and I encourage every New Yorker to get vaccinated, and get the booster if you’re fully vaccinated.”

Governor Hochul’s administration is continuing to focus on boosting vaccination rates among New Yorkers.