What to Know
- New York Gov. Kathy Hochul continues to push vaccinations and testing as the state battles its worst COVID-19 wave in a year; statewide COVID hospitalizations topped 10,000 on Tuesday
- The risk of breakthrough infections more than quintupled in December while the risk of breakthrough hospitalizations nearly doubled; unvaccinated NYers are still getting infected and hospitalized at more than 6x and 14x the rate, respectively, of vaccinated ones
- Omicron, the first NY case of which was reported Dec. 2, accounted for 93.8% of sequenced samples uploaded to GISAID, over the last two weeks, though CDC estimates its share could be as high as 99.1%
The current surge in COVID cases is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, according to the latest update from New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, and it could be some time before numbers start to stabilize once again.
The COVID hospitalization numbers released on Wednesday were at their highest levels since April 2020, when the pandemic was at its worst. There were 10,867 statewide hospitalizations, the second straight day of surpassing the 10,000-mark, as new estimates released by the CDC estimate omicron's regional prevalence to be as high as 99%.
The number of new patients being admitted to hospitals for COVID every single day is now routinely higher than hospitalization totals for the entire state during summer 2021.
The increase in hospitalizations over the last three days alone (2,094), for comparative purposes, is on par with the number of hospitalizations New York was seeing the week before Thanksgiving — when there were barely 2,000 people hospitalized with COVID statewide.
The last time hospitalization levels were this high was April 30, 2020, when there were more than 3,600 patients in the ICU statewide. Fortunately, that number this time is not nearly as severe, with ICU admissions below 1,400 — though that number and intubations continue to slowly tick up as well.
Another 77,800 tested positive, the state said, bringing the seven-day average positivity rate up to 22.45 percent. The count is expected to climb further, with Hochul not expected a surge peak until February and an omicron viral wave that, as one Manhattan emergency room doctor put it this week, is "making people really sick in a different way" than prior waves did.
Daily COVID deaths have largely been limited to the unvaccinated and are mercifully well below the 800 New Yorkers who were dying a day early in the pandemic. This week, Hochul reported one day with new fatalities in the triple digits for the first time since the mass vaccination rollout. Her report the next day was 99 new deaths.
The data are almost hard to fathom. More than one in five New York tests are coming back positive these days, and that number is expected to bounce up considerably Wednesday as holiday weekend reporting lags begin to catch up.
While case counts have been eye-popping almost daily as of late, with the U.S. topping 1 million new positives in one day for the first time since the pandemic started and New York state recording nearly 90,000 single-day cases on the first day of the new year, experts say hospitalizations and deaths are more critical measures in assessing states' ongoing battle against this highly adaptable virus.
The trends on those two indicators aren't exactly encouraging either right now.
The governor has indicated this will be a critical week in assessing whether "wider steps" are needed to secure hospital capacity until this surge eases.
More than half of all COVID patients hospitalized statewide are in New York City, which has the second-highest adult full vaccination rate (84.1%) of the state's 10 regions behind only Long Island (86.5%). Yet both regions, once again impaired by their density compared with others, find themselves atop COVID impact charts.
Nearly two dozen hospitals in the state have paused elective surgeries to preserve bed capacity above 10% in accordance with the state's winter surge plan, with Mount Sinai South Nassau becoming the latest to do so Tuesday. In announcing the measure, the facility said its COVID inpatients were taking up roughly a third of all available beds. But it's not just about the patients.
Nearly 200 of its employees are out sick, either for quarantine or surveillance purposes, because of enhanced COVID-19 protocol. Many may be back within the freshly loosened five-day isolation window, but given how omicron has raged across the state in recent weeks, many more may go out at the time they return.
Ultimately, officials say vaccinations will quell the increases in hospitalizations and deaths associated with the omicron wave. That's why they're urging calm at this time -- and pushing vaccinations and COVID boosters for those who have to get them, especially when it comes to children.
COVID hospitalizations among kids have soared in New York in recent weeks, prompting renewed pushes for parents to vaccinate their youngest eligible and get boosters for their older ones, now that the FDA has approved third doses of Pfizer for kids aged 12 to 15. It's not clear when 5-to-11-year-olds may be eligible.