Hochul orders clearer accounting of COVID cases in hospitals

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New York state hospitals will have to start reporting the numbers of patients being treated for symptoms of COVID-19 separately from those who test positive after being admitted for other reasons, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday.

Hochul said that amid a surge in hospitalizations tied to the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, she was “disappointed to see that at least a certain percentage overall are not related to being treated for COVID.”

Hochul said she’d “been doing a random call around to some of the hospital leaders that I touch base with” and was “seeing numbers from 20 to sometimes 50 percent.”

“But we don’t have clear data right now. That’s anecdotal,” she said during a news conference in Rochester.

“Beginning tomorrow, we’re going to be asking all hospitals to break out for us how many people are being hospitalized because of COVID symptoms [and] how many people … happen to be testing positive, just while they’re in there for other treatments.”

Hochul made the remarks while announcing that the state’s latest seven-day hospitalization rate had spiked to 37.3 per 100,000 people, continuing “straight up” a chart that plots the surge amid the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Gov. Kathy Hochul asked hospitals to provide more accurate reports on people hospitalized who are actually being treated for COVID-19.
Darren McGee/Gov Kathy Hochul
New York's latest COVID-19 hospitalization numbers.
New York’s latest COVID-19 hospitalization numbers.
Gov. Kathy Hochul

The latest statewide rate represents a nearly 50 percent increase over the 25.3 per 100,000 that the state Health Department reported on Dec. 27.

The highest regional rate announced Monday, 43.4 per 100,000, was recorded on Long Island, while the Finger Lakes and New York City were close behind at 42.1 and 42, respectively.

Hochul also said the latest number of new coronavirus cases had dropped from “nearly 90,000” to around 51,000, but called that figure “misleading” due to the New Year’s Day holiday on Saturday and “people not getting tested over the weekend.”

People lined up to get tested for COVID-19 in the Bronx amid the surge of the Omicron variant on January 3, 2021.
People lined up to get tested for COVID-19 in the Bronx amid the surge of the Omicron variant on January 3, 2022.
Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

“So, we’re looking at a critical moment but we also want to — we’re gonna start asking some questions,” she said.

“I have always wondered … is that person in the hospital because of COVID? Or did they show up there and are routinely tested and showing positive and they may have been asymptomatic or even just had the sniffles?”

Hochul also raised the possibility that “someone is in a car accident, they go to the emergency room, they test positive for COVID while they’re there. They’re not they’re being treated for COVID.”

According to Gov. Hochul, the latest drop in positive COVID-19 cases can be attributed to "people not getting tested over the weekend."
According to Hochul, the latest drop in positive COVID-19 cases can be attributed to “people not getting tested over the weekend.”
Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

“Now, someone’s conditions can worsen while they’re in the hospital. I’m not saying that won’t happen,” she added.

Hochul said, “I just want to always be honest with New Yorkers about how bad this is.”

“Yes, the numbers — the sheer numbers of people infected — are high,” she said.

“But I want to see whether or not the hospitalizations correlate with that.”

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