NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Hospitalizations in the Big Apple are rising sharply.
The number of COVID-19 positive hospitalizations has topped 10,000 for the first time in nearly two years, but the numbers may not reflect the severity of the pandemic, CBS2's Jessica Moore reported.
There is no question hospitalizations are up, but health experts say the number of people with severe COVID illness isn't nearly as high as the numbers would imply.
"We know that people are worried about Omicron. We know what it is doing to us," Mayor Eric Adams said.
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On Wednesday, Adams outlined his plan to make sure city hospitals don't break under the strain.
"To provide health care to the greatest city in the world, we must have the greatest health care system in the world at the same time," Adams said.
Adams announced a three-point plan to ensure city hospitals have the resources they need to fight surging COVID cases, including:
- $33 million in Goldman Sachs-backed loans to support the city's safety-net hospitals
- $111 million to support NYC Health + Hospitals
- 250 additional staff members at the city's Department of Health and Human Services
"The New York City COVID-19 hospital loan fund will make they are getting what they need to fight COVID -- salaries, protective equipment, testing, administering vaccines, and distribution all over the city," Adams said.
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The mayor plans plans to reclaim millions of federal dollars that are going unused to bolster the city's Health + Hospitals.
"Pump up baseline staffing, including doctors, nurses, medical technicians and support workers, and it would increase the overall COVID capacity and how we respond," Adams said.
Nearly 5,000 COVID-positive people are currently hospitalized in the city, with roughly 500 in the Intensive Care Unit.
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"Hospitalizations in New York City are currently less than half of what they were during our initial spring 2020 wave, though they have surpassed what we have seen in other waves. About 75-80% of all hospital beds across New York City are occupied right now and that number we do expect to increase in the coming days," city Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said.
Across the city, more health care workers are getting COVID, increasing the strain on an already overburdened workforce. Every hospital in the city does a PCR test on any patient admitted. Every positive patient is lumped into the overall COVID positivity rate, regardless of why they're being hospitalized.
"Over 30,000 cases a day on the seven-day average, and we are seeing the impact in our hospitals," Chokshi said.
"I would say of those that are PCR-positive, only about one-third are admitted for acute COVID pneumonia," said Dr. Jennifer Lighter of NYU Langone.
Among children, the disparity is even greater. Lighter, a pediatric epidemiologist, said the number of children hospitalized for acute COVID pneumonia is up by only a handful of patients, and they all share one common denominator.
"The children that are admitted for acute COVID pneumonia are not vaccinated. It's very upsetting and frustrating as an infectious disease doctor treating these children because I know their suffering could have been prevented," Lighter said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul is now asking hospitals to break down how many patients are being admitted for acute COVID symptoms, so officials have a better understanding of this wave's severity.
She also addressed the latest wave of the crisis in her first State of the State address Wednesday, recognizing the toll taken on the heroes still on the front lines.
"They're not only physically exhausted, they're emotionally exhausted, too," Hochul said. "That exhaustion combined with pre-existing staffing shortages has resulted in a crisis."
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There's also another potential threat facing health care facilities -- "flurona," the co-infection of the flu and coronavirus at the same time.
It was confirmed this week in Los Angeles County in a young man under the age of 18.
Doctors in the Tri-State Area say they have no doubt there are cases here, too.
"The consequences could be disastrous," immunologist Dr. Purvi Parikh said.
"What kind of symptoms might we have if we have flurona?" CBS2's Jessica Layton asked Parikh.
"Fever, headache, chills," Parikh said.
Parikh says if you're sick, you should ask to be tested for both.
"I think we'll be seeing more of it now since last year, our flu season was so much milder than it is this year, predominantly because everyone was so much better at getting their flu shots last year, masking," she said. "Our biggest fear is a twindemic ... A twindemic means that there will be a lot of COVID cases, a lot of flu cases and those overlap cases, too, are possible."
Flu season goes strong until May, so it's not too late to get your shot, and it's definitely not too late to get your COVID vaccine.
CBS2's Jessica Layton contributed to this report. Editor's note: This story was first published Jan. 5.
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