Hospitals for the first time in New York state will be required to provide more granular detail on COVID-19 patients, a move that could provide better insight in how virulent the omicron variant has been over the last several weeks.
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday announced hospitals, beginning Tuesday, will provide separate numbers on how many people are hospitalized because of COVID-19 and those who were admitted for other reasons, but subsequently tested positive for the virus and may have a mild or asymptomatic case.
The move comes amid a sharp rise in COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations. There are now 9,563 people who are hospitalized in New York who are also COVID-positive. It's not clear if those patients are in the hospital because of the virus or have tested positive upon admission.
The number could be useful to determine the severity of the omicron variant in New York. Preliminary research has found the variant to be a more mild version of COVID, even as it is more contagious.
"The cases are not presenting themselves as severely," Hochul said during a briefing in Rochester.
Still, the sharp rise in COVID cases has strained the state's health care network.
There are currently 21 hospitals in New York statewide that have been ordered to limit elective surgeries and procedures because of staffed bed capacity problems. The order, which took effect last month, initially covered 32 hospitals in the state.
State and federal officials this week moved to limit the isolation time for people who are COVID-positive but not showing any symptoms to five days, amid concerns that workers in essential sectors like health care, grocery stores and education would face high case rates and overwhelm schools and hospital systems.
The omicron variant has swept through New York, and now a majority of the positive cases in the state are believed to be this version of the virus. Hochul has previously extended an indoor mask order by two weeks to Feb. 1 and is moving to reopen mass testing sites at college campuses.
"We're not in a good place, I'll be honest with you," Hochul said Monday. "This was the winter surge we predicted."