A sudden surge of Covid-19 cases has placed Northeast hospitals on red alert, as the Omicron variant continues to spread faster than the Delta before it. States such as New York, where new cases are being reported over three times as many cases as before, have reimplemented indoor mask mandates and canceled many events.
Though many people who are double-vaxxed (or even triple-vaxxed), only experience mild symptoms after testing positive for Covid-19, the shock of another surge has done a lot of psychological damage for those excited to travel for the holidays and put the virus behind them.
Schools have closed buildings, Broadway shows have shuttered their doors, sporting events have been postponed, and now Northeast hospitals are feeling the pressure once more.
ER and ICU units have reached full capacity again in parts of the Northeast, according to The New York Times, with hospitals also experiencing staff shortages and breakthrough cases among doctors.
“We now have more Covid-19 patients in our hospitals than ever before,” medical officials in Ohio reported, pleading that, “We need your help.”
In Pennsylvania, one of the largest health systems has run out of hospital beds completely, as nurses are forced to treat patients with what they call “waiting room medicine” for those who endure 10-to-20-hour long delays.
In New York City, some people waiting to get tested for the virus stood four to six hours in 30-degree cold and rain this past weekend. At a CityMD in Flatbush, Brooklyn, nurses went out to the lines to handout hand-warmers and tell those at the end of the line that they might have to try again the next day.
“The current number of hospitalizations is the highest we’ve seen since delta became the dominant variant locally at the beginning of July,” said Dr. Alex Benjamin, chief infection control and prevention officer at Lehigh Valley Health in Pennsylvania.
Hospitalizations at Lehigh Valley Health have risen over 43% in the last month, according to NBC News, with officials warning the public that the situation in cities like Boston and New York City will surely hit Philadelphia soon.
According to The New York Times Covid-19 tracker, nearly 11,000 people in the New England states are now testing positive for Coronavirus every day.” Rhode Island, which previously had 75% of its citizens fully vaccinated, now boasts the most cases per capita each day.
The good news, however, is that while cases for the vaccinated have gone way up, deaths from the coronavirus have not increased as immensely. The death rate is around 0.05 for every 100,000 cases, The New York Times reported, which is significantly lower than when the virus was at its Spring 2020 peak.
“We’re actually seeing something different” than in previous surges, said Dr. Fritz Francois, chief of hospital operations for NYU Langone Health in New York. Though Northeast hospitals remain as busy as ever with Covid-19 cases, they’re sending people home a lot faster than before.
Dr. Eric Legome, another New York hospital director over at Mount Sinai, also told The Guardian that they’re “seeing a lot more treat-and-release” patients than in earlier waves from 2020.
Where the deaths are mainly stemming from are the completely unvaccinated, with many states in the Northeast still pushing for vaccination rates to be higher and for people to mask-up when they travel outside. Many people, however, are vaccinated and getting booster shots from Moderna and Pfizer to increase their chance of having milder symptoms should they still test positive or be asymptomatic.
Even in the South, where the Delta variant has been the main source of infection, Arizona reported 2,176 newly confirmed Covid-19 cases on Monday, Dec. 20, but not a single death.
It hasn’t stopped hospitals from having to turn away patients, however, with Pennsylvania doctor Gerald Maloney explaining that after two years and the holidays approaching, many “people are tired” and just want everything to go back to normal. Sadly, “it’s worse already than it was a year ago, and it may get even worse.”