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Drop in Long Island hospitalizations speeds up

Hospital tents set up for possible overflow patients

Hospital tents set up for possible overflow patients at Stony Brook University, are seen on April 13. Credit: New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Hospitalizations and intensive care treatment have fallen at increasing rates in Long Island’s medical centers in advance of the mid-May target for starting to ease New York’s COVID-19 lockdown.

Newsday’s monitoring of coronavirus-related hospital data shows that:

  • The patient count in Nassau County hospitals fell 18% in the five days ending April 26, compared with an 11% decline during the previous five days. In contrast, near the peak of the outbreak, hospitalizations increased 61% for the five days ending April 3.
  • The number of patients in Suffolk hospitals also dropped 18% for the five days ending April 26, compared with 10% in the previous five days. Near the peak, in the five days ending April 3, the number of patients doubled in five days.
  • Similarly, intensive care units experienced accelerating relief, with caseloads falling 15% in Nassau, compared with 14% in the previous five days, and 17% in Suffolk, compared with 4% in the earlier period.

Jaymie Meliker, an epidemiologist and professor in Stony Brook University’s Program in Public Health, wrote in an email that the trends are encouraging. He cautioned, however, that Long Island is far from reaching so-called herd immunity, the point at which the virus would have greatly reduced opportunities to spread infections.

“I still worry about a second wave, given we are far from herd immunity,” Meliker wrote in an email. “However, provided there are adequate ICU beds, staff, and resources to handle another wave, which may even be a bit larger than the first wave, then I would consider reopening in a limited fashion.”

Using multiple measurements — including factors such as hospitalizations — computer modeling about the pandemic projects declining death rates through May. The projections vary based on additional data, such as compliance with social distancing, and are subject to steady change.

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Conducted by numerous epidemiological research centers, the modeling has been used by governments, including New York and the United States, to help guide policies.

Some models see the daily COVID-19 death rate in New York State soon nearing zero.

Simulations created by the University of Texas' COVID-19 Modeling Consortium and the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation both forecast six deaths for the entire state on May 15, the final day of Cuomo’s full lockdown.

They leave room for the number to range as high as 27 and 32, with Washington’s IHME registering zero deaths by May 26.

Less rosily, the Los Alamos National Laboratory plots a statewide average of 189 deaths per day for May 20-27, but that number declines to an average of 146 in the following period.

New York counted 377 deaths on Tuesday, down from a daily high of 799 on April 9.

A state health department spokesman said the agency uses “multiple modeling systems,” including those developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Columbia University and IHME.

Jeffrey L. Shaman, a Columbia University epidemiologist, said variations arise among computer models because of the intricacy of the novel coronavirus problem.

“There are huge levels of uncertainty associated with this,” he said. “We have to simplify the real world because we don’t know the real world complexities.”

With Matt Clark and Sandra Peddie

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