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NY Officials Keep Close Eye on Hospital Bed Capacity as Omicron Variant Fears Mount

However, the recent capacity rate may be seasonal and has to do with flu and non-COVID-related viruses, according to hospital officials

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What to Know

  • New York officials are keeping a close eye on hospital bed capacity as six hospitals in the area are below the threshold of 10% bed capacity Wednesday as hospitalizations increase amid omicron variant fears, particularly now that the first U.S. case was confirmed.
  • The threshold number means that these six hospitals are more than 90% filled. Two of these hospitals are Queens, three are located on Long Island and another in Westchester County.
  • The reason for the threshold is that is allows the state Health Department to shut down elective surgeries to free up bed capacity. However, the recent capacity rate may be seasonal and has to do with flu and non-COVID-related viruses, according to hospital officials.

New York officials are keeping a close eye on hospital bed capacity as six hospitals in the area are below the threshold of 10% bed capacity Wednesday as hospitalizations increase amid omicron variant fears, particularly now that the first U.S. case was confirmed.

The threshold number means that these six hospitals are more than 90% filled. Two of these hospitals are Queens, three are located on Long Island and another in Westchester County.

The reason for the threshold is that is allows the state Health Department to shut down elective surgeries to free up bed capacity. However, the recent capacity rate may be seasonal and has to do with flu and non-COVID-related viruses, according to hospital officials.

Officials believe they have enough room to handle the uncertainties surrounding the new variant.

At Queens Central Hospital in Jamaica Hills, fewer than 10% of beds are currently vacant -- a metric that lands the facility on the Gov. Kathy Hochul's COVID watch list. But the city’s Health + Hospitals chief said the patient spike is not COVID-related.

"All hospitals have ups and downs in their census and I have to move staff as well as patients. It is an everyday activity," Dr. Mitchell Katz. 

The state says six local facilities are below 10% available beds: LIJ - Forest Hills, Queens Hospital Center, Long Island Community Hospital, North Shore University Hospital, Southside Hospital, and White Plains Hospital Center. However, while some upstate hospitals plan to pause elective surgery starting Friday, that's not the case in New York City.

A spokeswoman said Northwell remains confident that it can handle any potential increase in patient volume without impacting any necessary services. But with omicron now confirmed in California, New York City health officials brace for the first local case of the variant as they continue to urge residents to get booster shots.

"Over a million New Yorkers have gotten the booster shot. A lot more coming forward everyday. Listen, this is the time. Get that booster shot before that holiday season," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

"If you get your booster...you have an 86% reduction in the odds of having a positive test for COVID," Dr. Ted Long, head of New York City Test and Trace Corps, said.

The city also continues to enforce its vaccine mandate as hundreds of unvaccinated corrections officers at Rikers Island placed on unpaid leave.

"Even if they are on leave without pay, you say: 'Wait. I need to get paid. I want to be a part of this. I’m coming back.' I expect those numbers to go up," de Blasio said.

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