COVID increase, increase in hospital admissions burdens LI hospital staff

A sharp rise in COVID-19 hospital admissions and a large number of staff sick with coronavirus in the midst of an increase in overall cases is causing strain on Long Island hospitals.

During the seven days ending Thursday, the number of COVID-19 patients at Long Island hospitals rose more than 73% to 1,374 on Thursday, compared with 793 on December 24th.

Meanwhile, hospitals are reporting hundreds of staff sick.

At NYU Langone Hospital — Long Island, more than 300 employees were sick with COVID-19 as of Saturday morning, Dr. Leonard Krilov, an infectious disease specialist and chair of pediatrics at Mineola Hospital.

No one was sick enough to be hospitalized and they are “not necessarily terribly ill, but they are obviously unable to work if they have active COVID,” he said. “It adds an extra burden to the treatment of patients.”

Stony Brook Medicine reported that 664 employees were tested positive for the virus between Dec. 18 and Friday, and Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital on Friday said more than 200 employees were on sick leave.

Dr. Adhi Sharma, president of South Nassau, recently said that rising hospitalizations and sick staff make it more challenging to provide adequate staffing – and if the trend worsens, it may be necessary to postpone optional procedures and screenings to ensure an emergency of high quality care.

Many of the newly admitted patients who tested positive were not admitted due to COVID-19, hospitals say. That reflects how far the virus has spread in the last few weeks, Krilov said.

The number of new COVID-19 cases on Long Island more than doubled between Monday and Thursday, and the seven-day positivity rate on Thursday stood at nearly 21%, the highest level since the start of the pandemic.

On Saturday morning, 114 patients at NYU Langone – Long Island with COVID-19, 68 – or 60% – were initially admitted for reasons other than COVID-19, and during hospitalization they were tested positive for the virus, Krilov said.

“It can still strain the system, because once you know they are positive, even if it is for other reasons, then what to do for insulation, what to do for protective equipment and such? said Krilov.

Northwell Health, the state’s largest hospital system, reported on Thursday that 20% to 40% of its coronavirus patients were hospitalized for reasons other than COVID-19.

That does not mean that coronavirus cases in people listed as hospitalized for other reasons are “random or harmless infections,” Health Ministry spokeswoman Samantha Fuld said in an email.

COVID-19 can contribute to these hospitalizations because their medical conditions can be aggravated by the virus, causing them to get sick enough to require hospitalization, she said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, researchers have said that people with heart and lung disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases are more likely to become seriously ill if they get the virus.

Although omicron has been more successful than previous variants in escaping the vaccines, resulting in more cases of fully vaccinated people who have contracted the virus, the vaccines remain extremely effective in preventing serious illness, data show.

In the week ending December 26, the state-wide hospitalization rate for unvaccinated people was 30 per. 100,000 people, while the hospitalization rate for fully vaccinated persons was 2.1 per. 100,000, shows data from the State Department of Health.

Krilov said that at NYU Langone-Long Island, the vaccinated individuals who are hospitalized are particularly vulnerable due to old age or conditions that make them more susceptible to severe COVID-19.

“If they’re there for symptomatic COVID, it’s because they also have major underlying other illnesses – whether it’s extreme age or immunosuppression or chronic kidney disease or something like that,” he said.

Come back for updates on this development story.

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