What to know
- Governor Kathy Hochul continues to push for vaccinations and testing as the state battles its worst COVID-19 wave in a year; still she said Friday that she hoped NY sees the first signs of the start of a plateau
- Admissions are the highest since April 2020, but do not tell the whole story; 37% of hospitalized NY COVID patients have no symptoms, and a CEO says it is “very, very rare” to see a boosted patient hospitalized
- In New York City, half of hospitalized patients diagnosed with COVID were hospitalized because of the virus; the other half was admitted for something else and was found to have COVID during routine testing
A day after New York Governor Kathy Hochul shared optimism about COVID case trends showing a declining growth rate, the state experienced another record-breaking day with 90,132 new positive cases reported Saturday.
Hochul reported 82,094 new COVID cases on Friday, a drop of a few hundred from the previous day and about 3,300 positive left for the old one-day pandemic record of 85,476, she reported New Year’s Day.
The 90,132 new positives account for about 21% of the total 425,782 total COVID-19 tests taken throughout the state. More than one in five New York COVID tests return positive these days, and the city’s seven-day rolling average for positive tests is currently one in three.
“Our vaccination rate among children is still too low. Parents and guardians do not delay getting your children vaccinated and boosted if they are eligible. It is safe and widely available. This is one of the best ways to keep our numbers down , as well as wearing a mask and staying home if he is ill, “the governor said in Saturday’s daily COVID release.
The nation’s expert in infectious diseases spoke with NBC New York’s David Ushery, where he said he would take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to the possibility of ordering a fourth COVID vaccination later in 2022.
Also on Friday, the state revealed pediatric admissions for COVID-19 increased eight times in New York from the beginning of December to the end of the month, when the vast majority of these children were unvaccinated.
The new report follows an ominous Christmas Eve consultation for paediatricians, warning that hospital admissions were rising rapidly as omicron variant rev through the state.
Friday’s report indicates that the situation only continued to get worse thereafter. In the week ending Jan. 1, there were 571 pediatric COVID admissions nationwide, according to the New York State Department of Health, up from 70 just weeks earlier.
Of the inpatients, 91% of children aged 5-11 were unvaccinated, as well as 65% of children aged 12 to 17.
But overall, more than half of the admissions were in children aged 4 and under who are not yet eligible for vaccines. Children under the age of 4 represent about a quarter of all children in the state, which means they are admitted to about twice their share of the population.
In New York City alone, COVID hospital admissions increased by 18 and under 17 times, more than double the growth rate of the population as a whole.
Hospital concerns have gained renewed focus in upstate New York, where the state on Saturday announced the suspension of elective surgeries at 40 hospitals. The overwhelming majority of affected hospitals reside in the Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and Central New York regions, according to the state announcement. No hospitals in New York City were added to the list.
These hospitals in the state’s “high-risk regions” must postpone operations for at least two weeks, while officials track the latest incoming data and hospital capacity.
“We will use every tool available to help ensure that hospitals can handle the COVID-19 winter wave,” said Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett Saturday.
The head of the CDC, meanwhile, said Friday that she does not believe the United States has reached the top of the omicrons yet. But it could happen faster than expected if the numbers in New York this week are an indication of what may come next.
A quick look at New York City’s case trends shows what appears to be a downtick in new cases, but the data is four days behind. This increase in the seven-day average could reflect lower COVID test numbers around the holidays rather than the first indications of omicron’s decline – or maybe not. Time will tell.
At the same time, new cases from the exponential increases – sometimes doubling daily in New York City – the two lame indicators, the ones that officials are most worried about, hospitalizations and deaths, are declining significantly.
It has happened in almost every wave of the pandemic so far. The governor reported 154 new COVID deaths on Saturday, one less than the day before, with the highest number of single days since the mass vaccination.
Hospital admissions stand at 11,843 across the country as of Saturday, the highest number since April 28, 2020, marking an increase of nearly 300 patients over the last day. Nearly half of current admissions are in New York City.
“It’s still a number that is very high. If this correlates correctly with our number of cases, hospitalizations should start to see the beginning of a plateau,” Hochul said.
The balance of COVID patients in New York hospitals as a share of the total has doubled since just before Christmas, state data shows, but these factors alone do not tell the whole story. Forty-two percent of hospitalized COVID patients were not admitted because they were positive for COVID, state data show.
They were hospitalized for another disease, tested as part of the routine hospitalization process, and found positive for COVID. COVID still stands as the primary diagnosis for hospitalized patients with viruses throughout the state (58% vs. 42%), but a high relative proportion of people in the hospital with COVID did not go there because of the. This suggests the milder nature of omicron compared to previous variants, especially – again – when it comes to people who are fully vaccinated.
Manhattan emergency room Dr. “Craig Spencer touched on that element in a long Twitter thread earlier this week when he said it with omicron,”people get really sick in a different way“- as in that they come to the hospital because they are sick of an underlying disease – and then they got COVID on top.
It is not a total wave of omicron patients, he and others say. And it unfolds in different ways in New York.
New York City, for example, where the division is most notable at 50-50, has the second highest full vaccination rate for adults (84.3%) of the state’s 10 regions after only Long Island (86.6%), where one of the two county directors has been at war with the state over mask and other improved COVID protocol lately.
Vaccination rates among children whose hospitalization rates rose nationwide in New York last month vary more. More than 19.4% of NYC children ages 5-11 are fully vaccinated, as are 71.8% of children ages 12 to 17. On Long Island, these figures are 16.2% and 64.6%, respectively.
Hochul called it a “very interesting snapshot” of what she sees throughout the state. Thirty-seven percent of current COVID admissions are asymptomatic, the governor added.
Eventually, deaths are likely to increase as a standard consequence of the rising hospitalization rates, but the milder nature of omicron vs. delta, along with the ability of vaccinations to prevent serious illness and death, should mitigate the increases. And some of those who die may not die primarily from COVID at all.
Public health experts have said they do not expect the peak of this latest COVID wave until February, although they acknowledge the unpredictability of the virus.
The head of the CDC says there could certainly be a rapid downturn instead of a slow easing of cases, given how omicron has played out in countries it hit first, such as South Africa. But she does not think the United States is at that time yet.
“The number of admissions is rising faster than the number of admissions and deaths, although we are now beginning to see the number of admissions increase,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky for NBC’s “TODAY” in a Friday interview. “The way it has peaked in other countries, in South Africa, it has also fallen rapidly, but I do not think we have seen the peak yet here in the United States.”
“I would say that our hospitals right now are full of people who are unvaccinated and that you are 17 times more likely to be in a hospital and 20 times more likely to die if you are unvaccinated, compared to if you are boosted. ” she added. “There’s a lot we can do at the moment, get vaccinated, get boosted. We have 99% of our counties in high transmission, wearing your mask in a public indoor setting.”
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, says she does not believe the United States has reached the top of the omicron coronavirus wave affecting the country.