COVID-19 positivity rate continues to decline slightly, state data shows

Long Island’s COVID-19 positivity rate continued to decline slightly, according to state data released on Saturday, and the region’s largest hospital system reported a drop in the number of sick employees, a further sign that the omicron-fueled push could level off.

“I think you see the end” of the omicron peak, said Dr John D’Angelo, integrated operations manager and senior vice president of emergency services for Northwell Health, where pediatric hospitalizations began to decline after a rapid increase.

New York City and statewide positivity rates also fell on Friday, according to data from the state Department of Health.

On Long Island, the seven-day average positivity rate edged down from 26.58% Thursday to 26.46% Friday, the second consecutive drop.

Experts generally focus on the seven-day rates because they mitigate anomalies. Data shows the overnight rate is also down, from 26.73% Wednesday, 25.9% Thursday and 25.71% Friday, with 13,609 Long Islanders testing positive.

Last winter followed a similar path, with the one-day winter rate peaking on January 5, 2021 and the seven-day rate peaking on January 8, 2021.

Hochul “cautiously optimistic”

Governor Kathy Hochul said on Friday she was “cautiously optimistic” that the numbers could level off.

At Northwell, the percentage of patients who test positive across its system – including emergency care, emergency departments, and public testing sites – has been roughly stable at around 35% over the years. last few days after soaring, D’Angelo said.

“Things have stabilized or improved in a lot of settings that we are looking at,” he said.

In addition, he said, “hospitalizations have increased steadily for about a month, but have remained stable for the past four or five days.”

About 5% of Northwell’s 77,000 employees were sick with COVID as of Thursday, but by Saturday morning that number had fallen to just over 3%, D’Angelo said. This in part reflects the state’s relaxed rules allowing healthcare workers to return to work in as little as five days after testing positive or showing symptoms of COVID-19 – as long as symptoms are gone or gone. improve – instead of 10 days, he said. But it also indicates that the increase in omicron may have peaked.

Despite the possible cap, the positivity rate remains alarming and residents of Long Island should continue to wear masks and take other precautions, said Dr Peter Silver, senior vice president and chief quality officer at Northwell.

“We are very encouraged that this is starting to smooth out, but we cannot become lax on any of our measures to try to control the spread of this infection because it is extremely widespread,” he said.

Statewide and Long Island, hospitalizations related to COVID-19 increased on Friday, but at a slower rate than several days ago. On Long Island, the number increased by 52, to 2,112. Thirty-seven percent of those patients were admitted for a reason other than COVID-19 and tested positive upon admission, the state said. .

The COVID-19 death toll in New York City remained much higher than just days ago, with 154 New Yorkers dying from COVID-19 on Friday, including 19 Suffolk County residents and 11 Suffolk County residents. Nassau.

At Cohen, decline in pediatric cases of COVID-19

A day after the release of a state health department report that found pediatric admissions of COVID-19 statewide increased from 70 to 571 between the weeks of Dec. 5-11 and Dec. 26 December to January 1, Silver said. New Hyde Park has seen a drop in the number of coronavirus patients, from around 50 a few days ago to 36 on Saturday morning.

“What is concerning is that half of the children who were admitted required the intensive care unit,” said Silver, a pediatric intensive care physician and until recently Cohen’s medical director.

In the few months before the outbreak, there were often only a few children in hospital with COVID-19, and sometimes none, he said.

Acting State Health Commissioner Dr Mary T. Bassett said at a state briefing on COVID-19 on Friday that hospitalizations of children were increasing faster than hospitalizations of adults . The increase of over 700% contrasts with an increase of 241% for those 19 to 64 and 187% for those 65 and over during the same December period.

“The vast majority of hospitalized children are not vaccinated,” Bassett said.

Some children tested positive after being admitted for reasons other than COVID-19, but about 70% showed symptoms of COVID-19, Bassett said.

Nationally, 735 children had died from COVID-19 in 46 states as of December 30, and more than 29,000 had been hospitalized in 24 states, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Even though children are less likely to become seriously ill than older adults, “COVID is not a mild illness in children,” Silver said. “I encourage all parents and school districts to ensure children wear masks, as well as parents to ensure children are immunized and that adolescents aged 12 and over are eligible for the booster. receive their reminders. ”

Nassau County Director Bruce Blakeman issued an executive order on Thursday allowing school districts to ignore the state’s mandate that masks be worn in all schools.

Although he said the county had the power to do so, Hochul said the state mandate prevailed.

On Saturday, Blakeman defended his executive order, saying residents of Nassau suffer from “mask fatigue” and insisting that Nassau “is not in crisis” so a school mask warrant is not necessary.

Nassau gives more tests

Blakeman was speaking on Saturday in Tobay Beach, where the county was distributing 20,000 free home test kits for coronaviruses. Another 20,000 were distributed at Eisenhower Park. Each kit contained two tests. The same number of test kits will be distributed to both locations from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Sunday, said Chris Boyle, spokesperson for Blakeman.

The two sites were among several locations for the test giveaways on Saturday.

The Hempstead Union Free School District distributed more than 3,000 test kits on Saturday to four schools, said James Clark, deputy district superintendent and COVID-19 response coordinator.

The state has sent more than 6,000 test kits to the district, and the rest will be distributed to parents throughout the month in schools, he said. More kits are expected later this winter, he said. Two tests are in each kit.

Clark said the tests would identify children infected with the virus and prevent them from coming to school to potentially infect other people.

“We would like to make sure that every family, every student in our district has a kit, so if a child has symptoms, the parent can immediately test that child before going to school…” he said. . “If they’re negative then we know they’re okay and they can go back to school. We try to make sure every child goes back to school and stays in school. We want to keep them. open schools. This will help us. “

Clark said more than 36% of students were absent on Friday, a mix of children with potential symptoms of COVID-19 and children whose parents fear they may have been exposed to someone who tested positive.

“We know that over the years [winter] pause, the spread of COVID has increased, ”he said. “We hope that will slow her down. “

Clark said the test was done to help parents who couldn’t find them elsewhere.

Blanca Ramirez, 26, of Hempstead, said she was taking a test at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School for her 11-year-old son.

“I’ve been to CVS three times but never managed to find any,” she said in Spanish.

Kensy Jimenez, 27, from Hempstead, also couldn’t find home tests at pharmacies, so she bought two kits for her children, 4 and 9, at school.

“We want to be ready to test them if they have symptoms,” she said in Spanish.

Yisenia Rivera, 29, from Hempstead, was accompanied by her son Daniel Fuentes, 9, whom she will test if he becomes ill.

“It is important that he does not bring the virus into our house and that he does not bring the virus to school to infect other children,” Rivera said in Spanish.

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Edward K. Thompson