Governor Kathy Hochul warned of another wave of COVID-19 infections due to people gathering over the winter holidays, saying state hospital capacity could face a crunch in the coming weeks.
“We’re not in a good place, I’m going to be really honest with you. This is the winter surge we predicted,” Hochul said at her first briefing in the new year in Rochester Monday, Jan. 3.
Almost 51,700 people tested positive Sunday across the state, down from more than 85,000 on Friday, but the lower numbers are likely due to fewer people getting tested on the New Year’s Eve weekend, Hochul said.
“We fully anticipate, on top of the surge that’s already been ongoing, that there’s going to be another wave that’s occurring as a result of these holidays,” she said.
The spike is being driven by the highly-contagious Omicron variant, first detected in the state a month ago.
Statewide positivity rates were at 21.49% across a seven-day average as of Sunday and 9,563 people were hospitalized, surpassing the peak of the last winter surge at 9,273 on Jan. 19, 2021, and more than half of the highest number during the brutal first wave when 18,825 were admitted to hospitals on April 12, 2020.
The governor will ask hospitals starting Tuesday to show more detailed data of patients who are in hospitals due to COVID symptoms versus those who are there for other reasons but who also tested positive for the virus.
“I have always wondered, we’re looking at the hospitalizations of people testing positive in a hospital, is that person in the hospital because of COVID or do they show up there and are routinely tested and showing positive and they may have been asymptomatic or even just had the sniffles,” Hochul said. “I’ve just been doing a random call around to some of the hospital leaders that I touch base within and I’m seeing numbers from 20 to sometimes 50%. But we don’t have clear data right now, that’s anecdotal.”
There were 103 deaths due to the virus and 21 hospitals have cancelled elective procedures to free up space for COVID-19 patients, down from 32, said Hochul, who signed an executive order in late November to allow facilities to limit non-essential procedures to free up space.
“Twenty-one hospitals statewide is not that bad but based on what we’ve seen over this weekend in the numbers that were starting to creep up, this could change very quickly,” she said. “We could see a drop soon in our hospital capacity and at that point, we’ll be deciding whether we need to take wider steps and we’re ready to do it and we have the plans in place.”