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; total hospitalizations topped 11,000 and then some on Thursday
- Neither the city nor the state has seen such high virus admission rates since late April 2020; totals are expected to climb further amid high spikes in daily caseloads that aren’t expected to ebb until February
- The CDC estimates that omicron, the first NY case of which was confirmed on Dec. 2, now accounts for up to 99.1% of current COVID-19 cases in the region
New York state reported 130 new COVID fatalities on Thursday, the highest single-day toll since the mass vaccination rollout, and more than 11,000 hospital admissions, the highest total since the peak of the crisis in the spring of 2020.
Gov. Kathy Hochul reported 84,202 new COVID cases in the last day, which is 1,274 cases shy of the single-day record of 85,476 the governor announced on the first day of the new year.
More than one in five New York COVID tests are coming back positive these days, and the city has seen positivity rates nearing one in every three tests at times over the last month. As eye-popping as the daily case reports have become, experts say infections alone, which have proven to be milder when associated with omicron versus delta, are not their primary concern.
The primary concerns, elected officials, experts and public health leaders agree, are around COVID hospitalization and death rates. Those critical indicators, too, show extensive increases over the last six weeks apart from a brief holiday downtick. New York City’s rolling hospitalization average is up 62% over the averages for the prior four weeks and has grown by nearly nine times since Dec. 1.
The five boroughs now account for more than half of the more than 11,000 COVID patients hospitalized statewide. The totals for both state and city are currently the highest they’ve been since late April 2020, the worst of the early pandemic.
Still, hospitalizations don’t tell the whole story. Some cases in the official count involve COVID-19 infections that weren’t what put the patients in the hospital in the first place. Many have underlying conditions that compound the severity of their COVID-related illnesses.
According to Dr. Fritz François, chief of hospital operations at NYU Langone Health, 65% of patients admitted to that system with COVID recently were primarily hospitalized for something else and found to have the virus.
We should shift how we track the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, says Dr. Monica Gandhi at University of California San Francisco. Since Omicron is more infectious, it can cause higher case numbers. But with many people vaccinated or having some level of immunity, each case may not be a cause for panic – hospitalizations and deaths are better measurements of how severe the virus is, Gandhi says.
Manhattan emergency room physician Dr. Craig Spencer, who has been documenting his experiences in recent weeks, is finding similar trends too. As he explained in a lengthy Twitter thread earlier this week, this current COVID wave is “making people really sick…