New York delivered a previously unthinkable level of new COVID cases on Saturday when the governor's daily report tallied 85,476 positive results in a single day.
The exponential trend has showed no signs of slowing since the state smashed its previous all-time pandemic record last month. And with at-home tests available to those that can find them, the true total of positive cases can't be known.
The continued escalation in positive test results raised the rate of positive tests to 22.2 percent and the seven-day average to nearly 20 percent, the state said.
Meanwhile, hospitalizations continue to climb. As recently as the second week of December, Gov. Kathy Hochul assured New Yorkers "this isn't March 2020 or even January 2021," citing admissions totals well below January's peaks near 9,300.
Statewide COVID hospitalizations have well more than doubled since then and now total 8,451 with Hochul adding another 532 to the mounting count on Saturday. Per every 100,000 New Yorkers, 30 who are not vaccinated are currently hospitalized versus only 2.1 who have received their doses.
About half those patients are in New York City, where 50 Federal Emergency Management Agency ambulance teams are due to start arriving early next month, Hochul said. Thirty federal ambulance teams were dispatched earlier to other parts of the state.
Meanwhile, Hochul is sending 50 more New York National Guard members to bolster the 50 already there to help with non-medical tasks at health care facilities. Around the state, they are grappling not only with rising caseloads, but also with staffing pressures as workers are out sick or in quarantine.
The governor began deploying National Guard members to help out at nursing homes and long-term care facilities about a month ago.
A 35-member federal medical assistance team is expected to arrive next week at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, and a roughly 20-member team at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, state emergency services Commissioner Jackie Bray said.
Federal ambulance teams and additional National Guard members are headed for New York City, and western New York hospitals are getting more federal help, as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations keep rising, state officials said Friday.
Hochul also announced that students at state universities and the City University of New York will have to get coronavirus vaccine booster shots to be on campus in the spring semester and must provide test negative before returning from the holiday break.
“We are being hit very hard,” by the latest surge, driven largely by the virus’ omicron variant, said Hochul, a Democrat.
The booster requirement for state and city university students echoes measures some colleges elsewhere have taken. New York’s rule takes effect Jan. 15, with the understanding that some students may have been vaccinated too recently to qualify for boosters. They will have to get the boosters once eligible.