It's already too late in NYC

December 30, 2021 By Alan Salzberg

Last week I sounded an alarm (see blog post here)--despite its apparent lower severity, the sheer volume of cases would lead to more than 600 new hospital admissions a day in New York City by New Years.

Well, it's Dec 30, and here's what the last 3 days (Dec 26-28) look like in terms of new admissions: 810, 617, 770. I thought the Dec 26th number of 810 was perhaps double what it should've been because there was no reporting on the 25th, but alas, that appears to be overly optimistic. The highest daily admissions during the Jan 2021 outbreak was just over 500.  We've now had 3 days in a row of >600.

Hospitalizations are now near their Jan 2021 peak of 3,884 and will soon blow through it.  Couple that with workers out sick, and it's hard to imagine hospitals will not be overwhelmed sometime next week.  

On the bright side of things, ICU admissions as a percent of hospitalizations is only about half what it has been during the last year.  So we have 369 out of 3,178 in the ICU (11%) versus 190/894 at the peak of the fall Delta outbreak (21%) and 735 of 3,797 during the peak of the Jan 2021 outbreak (19%).  During the all-time peak in April 2020, it was 3,125 out of 12,000 (26%).

So we can perhaps expect lower deaths per hospitalization than last winter, but if we have double the hospitalizations, we could still have a similar number of deaths.

One more possibly hopeful fact: a steep rise and fall could mean the total hospitalized added up across time could be lower overall if the drop in new admissions is as steep as the rise.  During the Winter 2021 outbreak, we had approximately 8 weeks of new admissions above 140 before hitting the peak, and another 8 weeks before dropping below 140 again.  During the climb from 140 new admissions to the peak of around 340, about 13,000 people were admitted to the hospital in NYC, and during the decline back to 140 another 20,000 were admitted.  During the Omicron climb from 140 to its current level, about 4,000 people have been admitted.  So even if we have 2 more horrible weeks before the peak, we will have had fewer admissions in total than 2021 leading to the peak.  If the decline is equally steep, total admissions for the Omicron wave will be lower than for the early 2021 wave.  But there are a lot of ifs and caveats in there.  

Unfortunately, the next couple of weeks still look awful, and if hospitals get overwhelmed this wave will get more severe because people will not be getting the care they need.