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Schumer: Feds need plan for ‘unprecedented’ RSV surge in NY

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

New York is facing an “unprecedented” surge in pediatric Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases that the federal government must address before it’s too late, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Sunday.

The Empire State’s senior senator said about 300 children are entering the emergency room each day at Cohen Children’s Medical Center on Long Island, the state’s largest children’s hospital, and the majority of those arriving at hospitals with respiratory symptoms are testing positive for RSV, a highly contagious cold-like disease that produces mild illness for adults, but can lead to complications like pneumonia, hospitalization, or even death among children and infants.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the virus is surging in New York, with the most recent testing statistics finding a 14.6% test positivity rate on Nov. 26. The positivity rate did not climb above 8% in any period of 2021.

Northwell Health, the owner and operator of Cohen Children’s Medical Center, says patient volume at Cohen’s was up 44% in October and November compared to the same months in pre-pandemic 2019, blaming the surge in RSV — and health providers are struggling to keep up with the load.

“It is outright scary given that hospitals are already struggling to keep up, and it’s possible the worst is yet to come,” said Schumer. “As a grandfather to two young children, there is nothing more terrifying than the thought of them getting sick, and all across the city, Long Island and beyond, parents are facing hospitals who are pushed to the brink, with increased wait times, full beds, all while their child is struggling to breathe because of RSV.”

Schumer says the feds are uniquely suited to tackle RSV in ways states and cities cannot, a phenomenon seen throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The senator is calling on the Department of Health & Human Services to be ready to act “at a moment’s notice” to provide temporary structures, surge staffing, and approve out-of-state providers, among other things, if it comes to it.

“Nobody really knows what will come next, and if a city or Long Island hospital says they need something, the feds need to be able to say ‘help is on the way right now,'” Schumer noted. “Hospitals cannot afford to wait.”

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