Upstate New York Hospitals Are Being Overwhelmed by COVID

New York governor Kathy Hochul holding a COVID-19 press conference on Thursday. Photo: Debra L. Rothenberg/Shutterstock

Upstate New York hospitals are suffering from a wave of new COVID-19 cases. At the same time, many don’t have the staff to handle them all, according to the New York Times

Hospitalizations in the region have more than tripled since August when the Delta wave began to sweep through the state, Governor Kathy Hochul said after declaring a state of emergency last week. All hospitals at over 90 percent capacity may be ordered to stop elective surgeries to deal with the rising cases. There were 56 hospitals in that category on Friday, including ten in New York City, reports the Times. The seven-day average of COVID hospitalizations in the state climbed to 3,467 on Friday, the highest that number has been since the beginning of May.

A staffing shortage in health-care jobs fed by either pandemic burnout or vaccine holdouts compounds the issue. According to official estimates, about 33,000 hospital workers (a whopping 3 percent of the workforce) left due to a state-vaccine mandate. On Wednesday, Hochul deployed 60 National Guard medical teams to reinforce long-term care facilities across the state.

“It’s so bad in this area,” Dr. Jeremy Di Bari, who sees patients at a hospital and multiple urgent-care centers in Warren County, told the Times. “I don’t think it’s going to get better. I hope it won’t get much worse.”

As of Friday, the seven-day average COVID test positivity rate was 4.8 percent statewide, while six upstate regions were over 8 percent: 8.1 percent in the Capital Region, 8 percent in Central New York, 10.6 percent in the Finger Lakes region, 8.7 percent in Mohawk Valley, 9.2 percent in North Country, and 11.1 percent in Western New York, according to state data.

The case surge and hospital crisis comes as state officials monitor the emergence of the Omicron variant of the virus. As of Saturday, there were eight cases in the state — with seven in the Big Apple. “We knew the Omicron variant was coming and we expect to see more cases,” said Hochul in a news release Saturday. “We have the tools to help prevent the spread of this deadly virus: Get your vaccine, get your booster, and wear your mask. Let’s use these tools to protect ourselves and our loved ones as we approach the holidays.”

On Thursday, Hochul waved off the possibility of another statewide lockdown. “I am not prepared to shut down schools or the economy at this time,” she told reporters. “I will not overreact and send this economy spiraling out of control once again.”

Upstate New York Hospitals Are Being Overwhelmed by COVID