The number of New Yorkers with Covid-19 in the hospital is on the rise, but fewer are ending up in intensive care compared to previous waves – a sign that vaccines and a potentially milder version of omicron are making people less sick.
About 5,900 patients are hospitalized with Covid-19 across New York City, 52% higher than last winter’s peak of nearly 3,900 reached February 8, according to state data released Wednesday. However, the 666 patients currently in intensive care units with Covid are still below last winter’s high of 773.
New York, where the number of cases rose to record levels for several weeks, has become the epicenter of the omicron wave in the country. Survival rates are being closely monitored there as a potential indicator of what could happen in the country, as this option, which is currently the dominant strain across the country, is increasingly spreading elsewhere.
Dr. Adele Bassili-Marcus, an intensive care specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, said his department is working “close to normal,” even though the number of patients testing positive for the virus has grown significantly over the past month.
“We have a growing number of patients in the intensive care unit, but this is far from what we saw in the first wave,” he said. “It increased less than the total number of hospitalizations.”
According to Bassili-Marcus, the high vaccination rate in the area is keeping people from getting seriously ill. The omicron variant itself may be less virulent than previous strains, he said, helping to reduce ICU visits. Those who are admitted to the Mount Sinai intensive care unit are usually either not vaccinated or have comorbidities that make them more susceptible to serious illness, he said.
Of the more than 1,500 Covid patients at one of 22 Northwell Health hospitals in the Greater New York area, 9% are in intensive care, according to spokesman Joe Kemp. That figure was 16% when Northwell served a similar number of Covid patients last year.
One of the reasons for the wider gap between hospitalized patients and intensive care patients is the increasing number of people who, due to high levels of virus transmission in the city, end up in the hospital for something other than Covid and test positive after being hospitalized. Kemp said about 40% of Northwell Covid’s 1,500 patients fall into this category.
At NYU Langone Health, about 65% of Covid patients admitted to the hospital because of something else, spokeswoman Lisa Greiner told CNBC in an email, adding that the number of patients admitted to the intensive care unit for Covid has dropped by 58. % from January 2021. levels.
Press secretary Maxine Mitchell-Ramsay told CNBC via email that about 10% of the 1,000 coronavirus patients on 10 campuses of New York’s Presbyterian Hospital System are in intensive care units. This compares to 20% of the 700 Covid patients they had at this time last year. Just under half of the current Covid patients have been hospitalized for something other than Covid and tested positive in the hospital.
Citywide, the percentage of hospitalized Covid patients in intensive care units is about 11%, according to analysis of state data by CNBC. During the previous waves of Covid, it never dropped below 17%.
Hospitals can still feel pressure from the spike in the number of patients infected with Covid, even though some are sick less than before.
“Even if you have a lot of people who do not require ICU-level care, it still puts a strain on the system,” said Dr. Bruce 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 so they don’t infect others, and the increase in the total number of people hospitalized means that an already depleted workforce is stretching even further.
Many hospital workers are also forced to quarantine after being infected with Covid. Kemp said about 3% of Northwell’s 78,000 employees are not currently ill, but that the system was managed by redeploying staff between departments and recruiting staff from an internal temporary agency. Dr Bassili-Marcus said the staffing problems at Mount Sinai are more significant than in previous waves due to the infectiousness of the omicron.
“We deal with this because we are used to it,” he said. “We know how to deal with staff shortages.”
The combination of a shortage of staff and a growing total patient population is “something that we must take seriously,” New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said at the meeting. press conference at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens on Wednesday, even if those in the intensive care unit make up a smaller proportion of the total.
“What we know is that the number of hospitalizations due to Covid-19 is increasing.” he said. “The severity is slightly lower than what we have seen in previous waves, but we are also seeing an increase in ICU admissions.”