Northwell Health Labs executive director Dwayne Breining on the spike...

Northwell Health Labs executive director Dwayne Breining on the spike in Long Island COVID-19 cases: “Lots more people, I think, got together for Thanksgiving this year than did in the past two years and that’s nice but of course it does lead to intermixing, spread of the virus." Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Long Island has the highest level of COVID-19 hospitalizations and new infections in the state, officials said Wednesday, warning that the increase, coupled with current spikes in both influenza and RSV, could lead to a difficult winter.

Health experts had warned of an increase in COVID-19 cases during the holiday season as more people gather together without COVID-19 restrictions in place for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

This latest COVID-19 uptick, which has also been seen across New York State and the nation, comes almost two weeks after Thanksgiving.

“When we said things could get worse with the holidays … unfortunately that prediction came true,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a Wednesday news briefing in her Manhattan office with state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.

“We are surrounded by people who have COVID,” Hochul said. “Because so many have been vaccinated — even more should be getting the booster — the effect is not as dire but can still spread to people in a vulnerable situation.”

The latest state figures show that 6,093 New Yorkers tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, including 1,309 in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Officials have pointed out those numbers don’t include many people who find out they are positive through at-home testing.

While the seven-day average of new positive COVID-19 cases is about 27 per 100,000 for the state, it’s nearly 43 cases per 100,000 on Long Island.

Hospital admissions, which many experts believe are a more reliable metric to monitor future influxes of COVID-19, are at a seven-day average of 3.7 per 100,000 people on Long Island, compared with rates in other areas of the state between 1 and 3, Hochul said.

On Dec. 6, according to the state figures, there were 124 newly reported COVID-19 hospital admissions on Long Island and 307 the previous day.

Hochul pointed out how the emergence of the omicron variant of COVID-19 about a year ago led to a surge in cases in December and January.

“We feel good about where we are but we are not taking anything for granted,” she said. “Circumstances can change rapidly as they did last year.”

In the first week of December 2021, New York State reported 12 confirmed cases of the omicron variant, with three in Suffolk. And then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered all private employers to require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a way to stave off a spike in cases over the holidays.

Officials said that so far, the flu season has come early and proven to be extremely active. More than 27,000 lab-confirmed cases were reported as of Nov. 26, an increase of 76% from the previous week. New York has also recorded its first pediatric death from flu. In addition, children’s hospitals on Long Island and nationwide have been flooded with cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a common upper respiratory illness that can become more serious in babies and the elderly. 

As for COVID-19, Dr. Dwayne Breining, executive director of Northwell Health Labs, said the number of positive patients at the system's hospitals is up about 30% since Thanksgiving, even though not all of those patients were hospitalized specifically because of the disease.

“Lots more people, I think, got together for Thanksgiving this year than did in the past two years and that’s nice but of course it does lead to intermixing, spread of the virus,” he said. “Even in public spaces, like the tree at Rockefeller Center, people aren’t wearing masks and they are coming from different geographic regions and that statistically increases the chance that viruses spread.”

Patients admitted to Suffolk County hospitals for COVID-19 increased from about 205 in total 30 days ago to 264 this past weekend, according to Sean Clouston, associate professor of public health at the Department of Family, Population, and Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook Medicine.

Clouston said some of the increase was due to people who were in the hospital for other health issues.

“But the number who are in the hospital specifically because of COVID also increased by 53% (from 83 to 127),” he said. “Both types of patients are of concern because while the people 'with COVID' may not be as concerned by their diagnosis, hospitals still must manage their infection because it can complicate care for other issues, and because we have to keep them isolated from other patients who might be vulnerable.”

Both Nassau and Suffolk counties have been labeled areas of high community transmission by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency recommends that people living in high transmission areas wear masks while in public indoor spaces.

Bassett recommended people be aware of settings where wearing masks “would be wise,” such as around the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

“There’s a limit to how much we can legislate people’s behavior,” she said. “We in public health are now emphasizing that people can make decisions on their own.”

Clouston said it’s still unclear whether the rise in new COVID-19 cases will remain elevated.

“One reason they might dissipate more this year than last year is that we experienced a fairly significant summer wave and people may still have significant antibodies from that wave and from the recent push to get more people to update their vaccines,” he said.

Both Hochul and Bassett said they were concerned about the low number of people who have received the updated COVID-19 bivalent booster shot. About 13% of the population in New York State over age 5 has received a shot. And for one of the most vulnerable groups, people over the age of 65, that figure is about 32%.

A recent Truth in Medicine Poll by Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital found 56% of people surveyed received the bivalent booster. Among the people who didn’t, 29% said they didn’t believe it was needed.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed the number of patients admitted to Suffolk County hospitals this past weekend.

Long Island has the highest level of COVID-19 hospitalizations and new infections in the state, officials said Wednesday, warning that the increase, coupled with current spikes in both influenza and RSV, could lead to a difficult winter.

Health experts had warned of an increase in COVID-19 cases during the holiday season as more people gather together without COVID-19 restrictions in place for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

This latest COVID-19 uptick, which has also been seen across New York State and the nation, comes almost two weeks after Thanksgiving.

“When we said things could get worse with the holidays … unfortunately that prediction came true,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a Wednesday news briefing in her Manhattan office with state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.

What to know

  • Long Island has the highest level of COVID-19 hospitalizations and new infections in the state.
  • Health experts said the uptick is likely due to Thanksgiving gatherings and fewer people wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
  • While the 7-day average of new positive COVID-19 cases is about 27 per 100,000 for the state, it’s nearly 43 cases per 100,000 on Long Island.

“We are surrounded by people who have COVID,” Hochul said. “Because so many have been vaccinated — even more should be getting the booster — the effect is not as dire but can still spread to people in a vulnerable situation.”

New COVID-19 infections

The latest state figures show that 6,093 New Yorkers tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, including 1,309 in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Officials have pointed out those numbers don’t include many people who find out they are positive through at-home testing.

While the seven-day average of new positive COVID-19 cases is about 27 per 100,000 for the state, it’s nearly 43 cases per 100,000 on Long Island.

Hospital admissions, which many experts believe are a more reliable metric to monitor future influxes of COVID-19, are at a seven-day average of 3.7 per 100,000 people on Long Island, compared with rates in other areas of the state between 1 and 3, Hochul said.

On Dec. 6, according to the state figures, there were 124 newly reported COVID-19 hospital admissions on Long Island and 307 the previous day.

Hochul pointed out how the emergence of the omicron variant of COVID-19 about a year ago led to a surge in cases in December and January.

“We feel good about where we are but we are not taking anything for granted,” she said. “Circumstances can change rapidly as they did last year.”

In the first week of December 2021, New York State reported 12 confirmed cases of the omicron variant, with three in Suffolk. And then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered all private employers to require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a way to stave off a spike in cases over the holidays.

Officials said that so far, the flu season has come early and proven to be extremely active. More than 27,000 lab-confirmed cases were reported as of Nov. 26, an increase of 76% from the previous week. New York has also recorded its first pediatric death from flu. In addition, children’s hospitals on Long Island and nationwide have been flooded with cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a common upper respiratory illness that can become more serious in babies and the elderly. 

As for COVID-19, Dr. Dwayne Breining, executive director of Northwell Health Labs, said the number of positive patients at the system's hospitals is up about 30% since Thanksgiving, even though not all of those patients were hospitalized specifically because of the disease.

“Lots more people, I think, got together for Thanksgiving this year than did in the past two years and that’s nice but of course it does lead to intermixing, spread of the virus,” he said. “Even in public spaces, like the tree at Rockefeller Center, people aren’t wearing masks and they are coming from different geographic regions and that statistically increases the chance that viruses spread.”

More patients hospitalized

Patients admitted to Suffolk County hospitals for COVID-19 increased from about 205 in total 30 days ago to 264 this past weekend, according to Sean Clouston, associate professor of public health at the Department of Family, Population, and Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook Medicine.

Clouston said some of the increase was due to people who were in the hospital for other health issues.

“But the number who are in the hospital specifically because of COVID also increased by 53% (from 83 to 127),” he said. “Both types of patients are of concern because while the people 'with COVID' may not be as concerned by their diagnosis, hospitals still must manage their infection because it can complicate care for other issues, and because we have to keep them isolated from other patients who might be vulnerable.”

Both Nassau and Suffolk counties have been labeled areas of high community transmission by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency recommends that people living in high transmission areas wear masks while in public indoor spaces.

Bassett recommended people be aware of settings where wearing masks “would be wise,” such as around the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

“There’s a limit to how much we can legislate people’s behavior,” she said. “We in public health are now emphasizing that people can make decisions on their own.”

Clouston said it’s still unclear whether the rise in new COVID-19 cases will remain elevated.

“One reason they might dissipate more this year than last year is that we experienced a fairly significant summer wave and people may still have significant antibodies from that wave and from the recent push to get more people to update their vaccines,” he said.

Both Hochul and Bassett said they were concerned about the low number of people who have received the updated COVID-19 bivalent booster shot. About 13% of the population in New York State over age 5 has received a shot. And for one of the most vulnerable groups, people over the age of 65, that figure is about 32%.

A recent Truth in Medicine Poll by Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital found 56% of people surveyed received the bivalent booster. Among the people who didn’t, 29% said they didn’t believe it was needed.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed the number of patients admitted to Suffolk County hospitals this past weekend.

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