Officials in New York’s Coronavirus Task Force are preparing for at least a 20% increase in COVID-19 infections, daily hospitalizations and deaths by New Year’s, depending on how diligently New Yorkers comply with state virus restrictions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

New York’s overall coronavirus infection rate, daily hospitalizations and deaths have steadily increased across the state since the beginning of October, fluctuating near 3% positive through much of November. The statewide infection rate dipped slightly to 2.96% Tuesday including focus microcluster zones, down from 3.08% on Monday.

Cuomo and his top aides remain concerned about adequate hospital capacity for COVID patients statewide with the expected virus surge over the fall and winter, and with increased social activity over the holiday season, including indoor parties and gatherings.

“Increased social activity will increase the rate of the viral spread — fact,” Cuomo said.

Thanksgiving on Thursday is the unofficial kickoff to the larger holiday season, with Black Friday, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve and Day within a 37-day period.

The anticipated increase in social activity over the next six weeks could cause a 20% surge in new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths, officials estimated Tuesday. Coronavirus Task Force members settled on the 20% figure, which falls in the middle of multiple health expert projections.

New York’s average positivity rate of 2.93% would jump to 12.46% statewide with a 20% increase in new virus cases following the holidays, with the current rate of increase remaining consistent.

“No one really knows,” Cuomo said of the 20% prediction. “Some people estimate it will increase the spread more, some people indicate it will increase the spread less. It depends what people do.”

The more densely populated downstate regions have the highest chances of straining the hospital system. Officials reopened a temporary emergency COVID hospital in Staten Island this week adjacent to Staten Island University Hospital at the defunct South Beach Psychiatric Facility as increasing virus hospitalizations threaten the community.

Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 128% since Nov. 3, or 1,253 virus patients up to 2,856 on Tuesday.

Officials estimate 2,749 patients will enter New York City hospitals each day with the current rate of increase paired with a 20% spike following the holiday season, with 1,456 new daily virus patients in Long Island forecasted by early January.

“That, my friends, is a real problem,” Cuomo said. “We’re saying this holiday season we have to be smarter and different than we’ve handled past holiday seasons because it’s not a normal holiday season.”

Cuomo continued his plea to New Yorkers to stay home this Thanksgiving, avoid unnecessary travel and gathering with people outside their home over the holiday to reduce the impending spread of the novel coronavirus and save lives.

The governor issued an executive order earlier this month in anticipation of holiday gatherings limiting no more than 10 people in a private residence who are not legal members of the household.

“I know it’s hard — it’s all been hard,” Cuomo said. “Every day of COVID has been hard, and Thanksgiving is especially hard. ... This is truly about giving thanks and honoring people who sacrificed for us this past year, and there are a lot of people who sacrificed to get us over COVID.”

The governor spoke of the essential workers and first responders, including doctors, nurses, military and police, who continued to work through the pandemic — thousands of whom sacrificed their lives.

“That’s why this is a special Thanksgiving and for that special Thanksgiving, yes, the celebration is different,” Cuomo said, “but it is special and it is, in many ways, more profound and more meaningful than the past Thanksgivings.”

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said Tuesday New Yorkers’ activities during the upcoming holidays will determine how much COVID-19 spreads in the state by the start of 2021. Air and vehicular travel have increased statewide this week, she said, suggesting future pockets of clusters throughout New York.

About 24% of people who give COVID-19 to someone else never developed symptoms, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Friday that DeRosa cited. Thirty-five percent who transmit the virus to another person are presymptomatic, or too early in the incubation period to have symptoms and know they have the illness.

“The big X factor is Thanksgiving,” DeRosa said. “You will see an overall rise across the state. People (were) more likely to stay in their immediate neighborhoods.”

The state reported 2.96% positive new COVID-19 infections Tuesday of 164,761 diagnostic tests including focus areas in microclusters, or 2.62% without the oversampled locations.

Microclusters in Western New York, the Mid-Hudson Valley, in New York City and on Long Island were at 4.13% positive Tuesday.

Forty-seven New Yorkers died from coronavirus complications Monday — the highest daily fatality count in 24 hours since the spring.

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