The number of New Yorkers hospitalized for Covid-19 infection is exploding, but compared with the previous wave, the number of people in intensive care has decreased-suggesting that vaccines and possibly milder variants of omicron are reducing people’s conditions.
State data as of Wednesday showed that approximately 5,900 patients in New York City were hospitalized due to Covid-19, which is 52% higher than the peak of nearly 3,900 reached on February 8 last winter. However, the current number of 666 patients in the intensive care unit is still lower than the number of 773 patients last winter.
New York’s cases have soared to record levels for several weeks and have become the center of the country’s omicron wave. Survival rates there are being closely watched as a potential sign of what might happen across the country, as variants that are now the country’s main strain are becoming more popular elsewhere.
Dr. Adel Basili-Marcus, an intensive care unit specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, said that although the number of patients who tested positive for the virus has increased significantly in the past month, his ward is still operating “nearly normal.”
“We have more and more ICU patients, but it is far from what we saw in the first wave,” he said. “Its increase is smaller than the total number of hospitalizations.”
Bassily-Marcus suggested that the high vaccination rate in the area prevents people from getting really sick. He said that the omicron variant itself may also be less virulent than the previous strain, which helps reduce the number of ICU visits. He said those who end up in the Mount Sinai intensive care unit are usually either not vaccinated or have underlying diseases that make them more susceptible to serious illnesses.
Spokesperson Joe Kemp said that of the more than 1,500 Covid patients at one of Northwell Health’s 22 hospitals in the greater New York City area, 9% of the patients were in the intensive care unit. When Northwell handled a similar number of Covid patients at this time last year, the figure was 16%.
One reason for the large disconnect between hospitalized patients and ICU patients is that due to the high level of virus transmission in the city, more and more people enter the hospital for diseases other than Covid and test positive after admission. Kemp said about 40% of Northwell’s 1,500 Covid patients fall into this category.
At the New York University Lange Health Center, approximately 65% of Covid patients come to the hospital for other reasons. Spokesperson Lisa Greiner told CNBC in an email, adding that the number of patients admitted to the ICU due to Covid was higher than in 2021. It fell by 58% in January.
Spokesperson Maxine Mitchell-Ramsay told CNBC in an email that about 10% of the 1,000 Covid patients on the 10 campuses of the New York Presbyterian Hospital system are in the ICU. In contrast, at this time last year, they had 700 Covid patients, which is 20%. The system currently has less than half of Covid patients hospitalized for reasons other than Covid and tested positive in the hospital.
According to CNBC’s analysis of state data, the percentage of Covid patients hospitalized in the ICU is approximately 11% city-wide. In the previous wave of Covid, it has never been below 17%.
Although some people are less ill than before, hospitals can still feel the sharp increase in pressure from Covid-positive patients.
“Even if you have a lot of people who don’t need ICU-level care, it will still put pressure on the system,” said Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, professor of health policy and management at the City University of New York. York School of Public Health. Hospitals still need to isolate these patients to prevent them from infecting others, and the increase in the total number of hospitalizations means that the already exhausted labor force will be further stretched.
Many hospital staff were also forced to quarantine after they contracted Covid. Kemp said that about 3% of Northwell’s 78,000 employees are currently on vacation due to illness, but the system is managed by redeploying employees across departments and convening employees from internal temporary agencies. Dr. Bassily-Marcus said that due to the contagious nature of omicron, Mount Sinai’s staffing challenges are more serious than in previous wave periods.
“We are managing it because we are used to it,” he said. “We know how to deal with manpower shortages.”
New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said at a press conference at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens on Wednesday that the combination of staff shortages and rising overall patient levels is “something we need to take seriously,” even if those in the ICU are making up for the total. The share is smaller.
“What we do know is that the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations is increasing,” he said. “The severity is lower than what we have seen in previous waves, but we have also seen an increase in the number of ICU hospitalizations.”
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