The so-called "stealth" omicron variant BA.2, currently fueling the city's uptick in COVID cases, isn't likely to match January's "omicron tsunami," a noted Manhattan emergency room doctor said over the weekend.
A notable increase in cases has materialized in the city, and in other parts of the country, with a majority of the new positive results connected back to the BA.2 variant.
New York City's daily case average is up nearly 200% in a month, a figure that is bolstered only by positive cases reported to the city. Tracking the true number of positive results has been near impossible since the widespread access to at-home tests.
And while the existing data shows a steady climb since city officials removed some of the last remaining long-standing rules to curb the spread of the virus, the daily numbers are still a fraction of what was reported in January's surge.
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Looking past case figures and instead at the number of hospitalizations, rather, could support the theory that an emerging surge won't overtake the city's hospital systems, Dr. Craig Spencer explained in a Twitter thread Saturday.
Spencer, who vaulted to internet fame during the city's Ebola scare in 2014 and has been sharing his thoughts on omicron over the last several months, said hospitals have been able to manage the current surge in cases.
He said, "Even with rising case numbers, I haven’t seen a Covid patient in the ER in weeks," and based on the case count climb "we should've seen some movement already."
New York City has been experiencing a steady resurgence in virus cases over the past month. But, Spencer says, daily case numbers don't tell the full picture.
The city is now averaging around 1,800 new cases per day — not counting the many home tests that go unreported to health officials. That’s triple the number in early March, when the city began relaxing masking and vaccination rules.
The emergency room doctor says a pattern has emerged in his recent telehealth work.
"Nearly everyone that called in on my last shift was for Covid, the first time it's been like that since February," Spencer tweeted.
Those results, however, were not reported to the city and came mostly from people under the age of 40, he added.
That's one of the principal reasons why health officials look to hospitalizations for the clearest indication of the virus' stronghold on communities. It's a policy taken by the top medical experts at the city and state level.
A glance at hospital numbers, Spencer points out, could suggest that New York City is staring down the barrel of an out-of-control wave.
Hospitalization numbers have long been a lagging, but clear indicator of the strength of whichever variant is currently making the rounds.
The city's most recently available data shows that not only have hospitalizations not increased since last month's rise, but they're actually on the decline. The daily average is down slightly based on the last seven days of data.
What's most fascinating about that data point, Spencer argues, is that the number of people sick enough to require hospitalization hasn't budged.
"Even with rising case numbers, I haven’t seen a Covid patient in the ER in weeks. And unlike the unreliable case data for the community, ‘hospitalizations’ is a VERY reliable indicator," he tweeted.
Despite "a good amount of virus circulating," Spencer adds, "we haven’t seen hospitalizations move. Maybe they will in coming weeks. But we should’ve seen some movement already."