ROCHESTER — The state Health Department will start to ask all hospital administrators to provide a breakdown of COVID-positive patients with mild symptoms versus severe infections to keep New York hospitals from becoming overwhelmed as the latest surge advances.
New daily coronavirus infections in the state have jumped to 23.17% and 21.49% over a seven-day average Monday. New York’s COVID transmission rate has continued a steady climb, up from a one-week average of just under 18% on Friday, New Year’s Eve.
COVID-19 cases — and increased hospitalizations and deaths — are expected to persist on the upswing in the days following large New Year’s gatherings, and may continue through the Super Bowl in February.
“We’re not in a good place,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a COVID-19 briefing at SUNY Rochester Educational Opportunity Center on Monday. “Unfortunately, I’m going to say as a result of the holiday weekend, those numbers are probably going to be much higher tomorrow.
“...Hospitalizations continue to rise,” she later added. “That is a trend that is, again, troubling.”
Statewide COVID hospitalizations amassed to 9,563 people Monday with hundreds more patients overnight for the last several days, and nearly up 1,000 people since the start of the holiday weekend. The state reported 8,451 New Yorkers hospitalized with virus complications Saturday.
The state will ask hospital leaders for additional COVID-19 information to get a clearer picture of the number of New Yorkers hospitalized for different reasons who may test positive for the virus, or patients with the virus who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. The omicron COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa at the end of November rapidly transmits the fatal upper respiratory infection, but has shown to cause less severe symptoms and infections.
“We’re going to break out for us how many people are being hospitalized because of COVID symptoms, how many people are happening to be testing positive just while they’re in there for other treatments?” Hochul said. “I think that’s important. I just to always be honest with New Yorkers about how bad this is, yes, the numbers. The sheer numbers of people infected are high, but I want to see whether or not the hospitalizations correlate with that. And I’m anticipating to see that at least a certain percentage overall are not related to being treated for COVID.”
Hospitals in the Finger Lakes region had 14.4% of beds available as of Saturday, with 2.8% available Intensive Care Unit beds, Hochul said.
Twenty-one hospitals in the state have ceased elective surgeries and procedures with hospitals that have fewer than 10% capacity. Thirty-two hospitals were forced to pause nonessential procedures when the mandate first went into effect Dec. 6.
The state will open 10 new COVID-19 testing sites will be opening on State University of New York campuses across the state and at Syracuse University this week, with additional sites opening in the coming days as record numbers of COVID tests have caused hours-long wait times to get a nasal swab test, backlogging results for several days.
Sites will open at Binghamton University, SUNY Plattsburgh, SUNY Cortland, the University of Buffalo, Buffalo State College, SUNY Oswego, SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Albany, SUNY Stony Brook and SUNY Purchase. Syracuse University will also open a testing location at the Carrier Dome.
Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett thanked SUNY and the other campuses for hosting additional testing site locations across the state.
“Knowing your COVID-19 status through testing and taking the necessary precautions when you are infected are key to keeping our kids in school and our communities functioning as we push through this winter surge,” Bassett said in a prepared statement.
Millions of at-home COVID testing kits continue to arrive in New York, with several million sent to school districts across the state in efforts to keep students learning in the classroom amid the winter surge. Administrators in each district decided how to implement the Test to Stay program in their school district, or to require students to revert to online schooling as the virus rages.
Hochul encouraged parents of children in the handful of New York school districts that decided to resume classes after the holiday break online, or with remote learning, to fight back.
“My view is that every child who back in school unless they’re testing positive, and the reason we know that this is safe and that it is not being spread in schools; it’s more likely that they’re getting it because of hanging out with their relatives and their friends in the neighborhood,” Hochul said. “...We saw that digital divide became a canyon, where communities of color particularly did not have access to high-speed broadband or the devices to allow students to learn and they just did the best they could. That was an injustice. We cannot have that anymore. The best place for equality of education. The best opportunities for learning is in a classroom.
“I’m asking parents to petition their leaders and say, ‘Why is the rest of the state doing this?’”
New COVID-19 infections soared to 16.12% in the Capital Region from 14.56% on New Year’s Eve.
New cases increased to 16.68% in the Finger Lakes from 15.68% on Friday.
Infections in the North Country continue to rise, but are among the lowest in the state at 12.88% Monday compared to 11.94% Friday.
The state reported 103 New Yorkers died from COVID complications Sunday, an increase of dozens of daily fatalities over the last few weeks, but about flat since before Christmas.