Although there is no doubt that coronavirus cases are surging due to the omicron variant, new data from New York shows that the virus is only one problem facing the state’s hospitals.
Data released from the office of Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul shows the percentage of patients that “were admitted for non-COVID-19 conditions.” The numbers show that 43 percent of the people admitted to New York hospitals statewide fell into the category “admitted where COVID was not included as one of the reasons for admission.”
That figure varied greatly from region to region, with the highest percentage, 51 percent, of non-COVID cases entering hospitals in New York City.
In contrast, the Central New York Region, which is near Syracuse, came in at only 20 percent of hospital cases not linked to COVID-19, and the Capital Region, near Albany, came in at 23 percent of admissions not related to COVID-19.
There is one caveat in the data.
“I’ve admitted patients with abdominal pain, I’ve admitted patients with chest pain who had no symptoms of respiratory illness, cough or COVID, and they just ended up being COVID positive,” said Dr. Rahul Sharma, the emergency physician-in-chief for the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
In Austin, Texas, some estimates put the number of virus-positive patients who enter for another reason at 30 to 40 percent, with the leading theory being that they are asymptomatic when it comes to the virus.
Health officials in New York City are worried about battling the seasonal spike in flu cases that comes with winter in conjunction with COVID-19, according to WCBS-TV.
“Our biggest fear is a ‘twindemic.’ A ‘twindemic’ means that there will be a lot of COVID cases, a lot of flu cases and those overlap cases, too, are possible,” immunologist Dr. Purvi Parikh explained.
“About 75-80 percent of all hospital beds across New York City are occupied right now and that number, we do expect to increase,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said.
One expert said the blending of ailments will make it harder to track the severity of the disease.
“I still think hospitalization data is the best data we have,” said Dr. Stephen Schrantz, an infectious disease expert at UChicago Medicine, according to NBC.
“But it is probably only useful as a relative value, meaning COVID is up or down, and not accurate as far as actual cases.”
In noting the political issues that uncertain numbers can produce, The Washington Post quoted Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“Looks like the conspiracy theorists who are now banned from Twitter were right all along, the official numbers were fake. Those kids were in the hospital for broken bones and appendicitis, not COVID,” he said.
Officials say regardless of why patients are there, hospitals are crunched as never before.
“It’s putting a further strain on an already incredibly strained nursing workforce,” said Kevin Romanchik, an emergency room and critical care nurse at the University of Michigan Health System, who said fast-rising caseloads are “directly impacting our ability to care for patients in a safe manner.”
He said nurses have limits that are being approached as they near burnout.
“Ventilators, needles or syringes … those things can be ordered and restocked,” said Romanchik.
“Nurses and the care we provide are finite resources. We’re not just a number at the bottom line that you can replace.”