A sharp rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations and a large number of employees out sick with the coronavirus amid a surge in overall cases are causing strains on Long Island hospitals.
On Friday, there were 1,486 patients with COVID-19 in Long Island hospitals, an 87.4% increase from the previous Friday, when there were 793. Friday also was the first time in the current spike that hospitalizations rose above the number from a year earlier.
Meanwhile, hospitals are reporting hundreds of sick staff.
At NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island, more than 300 staff were sick with COVID-19 Saturday morning, said Dr. Leonard Krilov, an infectious disease specialist and chairman of pediatrics at the Mineola hospital.
They're "not necessarily terribly ill, but obviously they’re unable to work if they have active COVID," he said. "That’s adding an additional strain in caring for patients."
Stony Brook Medicine reported that 664 employees tested positive for the virus between Dec. 18 and Friday, and Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital Friday said more than 200 employees were out sick.
Dr. Adhi Sharma, president of South Nassau, said Thursday that if the trend worsens, elective procedures and screenings may be postponed.
The coronavirus is causing shortages outside hospitals as well. The Town of Huntington Senior Center and Senior Beach House will close the week beginning Monday because of COVID-19-related staff shortages, the town announced Saturday. Home-delivered meals will continue.
Signs of virus' wide spread
Many newly admitted hospital patients who tested positive were not admitted because of COVID-19. That reflects how widely the virus is spreading, Krilov said.
The number of new daily COVID-19 cases on Long Island more than doubled between Monday and Thursday.
On Saturday morning, 60% of the 114 patients at NYU Langone-Long Island with COVID-19 were admitted initially because of reasons other than COVID-19 and, during admission, tested positive, Krilov said.
"It can still put a strain on the system, because once you know they’re positive, even if it’s for other reasons, what do you need to do for isolation, what do you need to do for protective equipment and things like that?" Krilov said.
At Stony Brook University Hospital, many patients with COVID-19 were admitted for other reasons, but those admitted because of COVID-19 appear to have increased significantly recently, said Sean Clouston, an associate professor of public health at Stony Brook University.
Northwell Health, the state’s largest hospital system, reported Thursday that 20% to 40% of patients with the coronavirus were admitted for reasons other than COVID-19.
That doesn’t mean coronavirus cases in people listed as admitted for other reasons are "coincidental or harmless infections," state Department of Health spokeswoman Samantha Fuld said in an email.
COVID-19 may be contributing to those hospitalizations, because patients' medical conditions may be aggravated by the virus, leading them to get sick enough to require admission, she said.
People with heart and lung conditions, cancer, diabetes and other diseases are more likely to get seriously ill if they contract the virus, scientists say.
Vaccines remain highly effective, data shows
Although omicron has been more successful than previous variants in eluding the vaccines, resulting in more cases of fully vaccinated people contracting the virus, the vaccines continue to be highly effective in preventing severe illness, data shows.
In the week ending Dec. 26, the statewide hospitalization rate for unvaccinated people was 30 per 100,000 people, while the hospitalization rate for fully vaccinated people was 2.1 per 100,000, state Health Department data shows.
Clouston said some vaccinated people are "totally protected," both asymptomatic and not infectious, while others are not, which is the case with other vaccines as well.
Krilov said all vaccinated COVID-19 patients at NYU Langone-Long Island are especially vulnerable because of old age or medical conditions.
State Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said Friday that pediatric COVID-19 admissions have more than quadrupled in the past few weeks.
Krilov said he’s concerned that could lead to an uptick of multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a condition that can occur in children in the weeks after COVID-19 infection.
The hospital recently treated a 7-year-old seriously ill with the syndrome. "It may be a harbinger of something more to come," he said.
New York has had 606 confirmed syndrome cases and three deaths, according to the state Health Department.
Number of new cases climbs again
The number of new COVID-19 diagnoses continued to climb Friday, again setting new records — although a lack of testing early in the pandemic means cases then were greatly undercounted.
There were 14,519 new positive results Friday on Long Island, and 85,476 statewide. The Island's seven-day positivity rate rose to 22.69%, again the highest in the state and up nearly 2 percentage points from Thursday. The statewide rate was 19.79%; New York City's was 20.56%.
Another 88 New Yorkers died of COVID-19 on Friday, including eight Suffolk and six Nassau residents.
Sign up to get text alerts about COVID-19 and other topics at newsday.com/text.