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Cuomo permits much of upstate to resume elective surgeries, but not Erie County

Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said many counties in the state with low levels of the coronavirus will be allowed to resume elective surgeries in the coming days while in the regions hardest hit by the illness, the numbers of deaths and hospitalizations are declining at a very slow rate, with 330 deaths in New York from COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Cuomo says the counties, all of them upstate, will be permitted to resume elective surgeries, but only if they can keep 30% of their hospital beds and ICU beds free in case the virus resurges.

That criteria does not include Erie County, but it does include Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties in Western New York.

“When you cancel elective surgeries, hospitals feel a financial pinch, because that’s where they make their money, on elective surgeries,” said Cuomo.  

The governor also devoted several minutes to a critique of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans. McConnell has said that a federal bailout would amount to favoritism of blue states, who have more infected people, over red states.

Cuomo called it an “ugly sentiment” and said politics must be put aside in this crisis.

“You have human suffering. You have people dying. You can’t stop the politics, even in this moment?” Cuomo said. “That’s what this is about and that’s why it is so disturbing on a fundamental level.”

The governor continues to argue that New York and other Democratic states pay more in taxes to the federal government than do red states and that, in proportion, Democratic states get less money back.

And he said regular Americans are not as politically divided. He cited the example of tens of thousands of health care professionals from across the country who volunteered to come to New York to help care for COVID patients.

Cuomo, who on Tuesday said the State Fair might not be held this year, also cast doubt on the reopening of another New York summer tradition. He said the Saratoga Race Track Meet might not occur, saying it would be difficult to practice social distancing, and could only happen if neighboring states also decide to allow large gatherings.   

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.