New York Gov. Cuomo warns a January economic shutdown is possible as Covid cases soar to springtime records

New York's non-essential businesses may be forced to close again in January if the state doesn't clamp down on escalating coronavirus cases, which have soared in recent weeks to record levels not seen since the spring, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

"Of course a shutdown in January is possible," Cuomo said at a press conference in Albany. "But there's a big but," he said, spelling the word out one letter at a time "B-U-T."

Whether the state imposes an economic lockdown again depends on what New Yorkers do over the remaining holidays and whether new Covid-19 infections decline or grow, he said.

New York is grappling with a surge of Covid-19 cases, averaging roughly 10,294 new infections every day over the last week, a more than 7% increase compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University data. That's more new cases every day than the state saw in the spring when hospital systems in New York City and elsewhere were overwhelmed with patients.

Cuomo didn't say what a second shutdown would look like. He imposed another ban on indoor dining in New York City on Monday, but said he wants to keep public schools open and he hasn't yet decided on whether to shut down non-essential businesses.

"It is up to us. What will happen in three weeks? What will happen in four weeks? You tell me what you're going to do over the next three weeks or four weeks, and I'll tell you what's going to happen," he said.

At the current rate the virus is spreading, New Yorkers should be prepared for a second shutdown similar to the one that Cuomo issued in the spring where nonessential businesses and schools were shuttered and people were told to stay home to halt Covid-19's spread, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned.

He said it was "increasingly necessary just to break the back of the second wave, to stop this second wave from growing, to stop it from taking lives, to stop it from threatening our hospitals," de Blasio said during a press briefing Monday.

Cuomo urged New Yorkers to take "personal responsibility" to slow the spread of the virus, especially amid the holiday season. The state is now concerned about what the governor calls "living room spread." That's because statewide contact tracing data has shown that nearly 74% of new Covid-19 cases are coming from households and social gatherings.

"Nobody knows what New Yorkers will do between now and Christmas, and how they will act on Christmas week," Cuomo said. "The numbers are not predestined. The numbers a reflection of what we do."

The governor also pushed for the state's hospitals to shift to "crisis management mode," meaning that health-care systems need work with neighboring hospital systems to "share the burden" of patients and transfer resources to hospitals in areas with high Covid-19 rates.

There are more than 5,400 people hospitalized in New York based on a weekly average, a more than 25% increase compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic.

"Balance the load so you don't have hospitals getting overwhelmed, which is what we saw in the past," Cuomo said.

The state has started administering its initial allotment of Covid-19 vaccines to front-line health-care workers. The state has so far received 87,750 doses of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, and it plans on getting an additional 80,000 doses in the next few days, Cuomo said.

"That will go for residents at nursing homes," Cuomo said. New York could get another 346,000 doses of vaccine from Moderna if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration clears it for emergency use this week.

"Slow the spread, manage the hospitals, administer the vaccine," Cuomo said.

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