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Long Island Grapples With Impact Of The Highest COVID-19 Infection Rates In The State

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The highly contagious Omicron variant is continuing to spread in New York state.

The current COVID positivity rate across the state is 22.5%. In New York City, it is 21.4%. In the northern suburbs, which the state refers to as the mid-Hudson regions, it's 24.4%. On Long Island, the positivity rate is among the highest in the state, at 27.3%.

As CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reports, the halls of St. Anthony's High School were quiet Tuesday, with students learning remotely the past two days. That's a decision the principal of the South Huntington school made late December.

"The reason we did that was two-fold. One, to assess staffing. Could we open safely with our numbers? And two, families, many could not get tested," said St. Anthony's High School Principal Brother David Anthony Migliorino.


Students return Wednesday, and they're prepared for any staff shortages.

"We have called in all of our subs to come  every day regardless of if we need them or not," Migliorino said.

Hicksville schools handed out at-home tests in a drive-thru Tuesday. The district is temporarily remote along with Freeport, Westbury and Glen Cove schools, noting staff impacts from COVID.

The Freeport Memorial Library will be closed for the remainder of the week due to staffing shortages. Curbside pickup is still available.

As cases soar, Long Island continues to have the highest positivity rate in the state.

"We are currently experiencing the heart of this current Omicron surge," said David Hirschwerk of North Shore University Hospital.

Hirschwerk, the hospital's medical director, says they test all patients for COVID. About 200 admitted are positive. For now, the hospital is holding off on scheduling new surgeries that can wait a few weeks.


"We intend to do roughly 50-70% of what we would normally do in terms of surgery. But it's a very careful, selective look," he said.

Mount Sinai South Nassau says it is rescheduling most elective surgeries that require an overnight stay as about one-third of its bed have COVID patients. Nearly 200 employees are out sick, or in quarantine. In a statement, the hospital said:

Mount Sinai South Nassau is rescheduling most elective surgeries that require an inpatient overnight stay in the hospital as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

Out-patient ambulatory surgeries and procedures that do not require an overnight stay are proceeding as scheduled as are chemotherapy infusions for cancer patients.

All surgical cases are being carefully reviewed by the hospital's surgical leadership to ensure that patients needing procedures are scheduled in a timely manner and to confirm that only cases that can safely be delayed are postponed.

The number of COVID positive patients has surged in recent days with 100 COVID positive in-patients currently hospitalized as of this morning. This represents roughly one-third of all available beds at Mount Sinai South Nassau. At the same time, nearly 200 employees are out sick, either in quarantine or for surveillance due to COVID.

We are carefully monitoring our patient and staffing requirements and we remain hopeful that the recent COVID surge due to the omicron variant will peak in the coming weeks and then begin to ease the number of new COVID cases we are seeing at our Emergency Department and in other areas of the hospital. Patients with questions about their procedures should contact their physicians directly to obtain information about rescheduling. We appreciate everyone's patience and support during yet another challenging time. 

First responders urge people to avoid going to emergency rooms to get tested and continue to use EMS services for emergencies only.

"People can test themselves at home instead of overwhelming these health care facilities, which has been really the biggest problem, versus hospitalizations," said Nassau County Chief Fire Marshall/County Fire Coordinator Michael Uttaro. "When the ambulances used to go on a run for one hour with the volunteers, they'd be away from home or away from their jobs for an hour. Now, that's up to two hours and in some cases three hours that they're waiting to transfer their patient to a bed in an ER."

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman says more resources are coming.

"We are in the process of acquiring more test kits. We are in the process of setting up vaccination pods," Blakeman said. "We're working on many fronts, but we're very confident that this is manageable and we will be in good shape in Nassau County."

Several Long Island libraries including Sayville, Brentwood and Freeport are also temporarily closed. They're each citing either safety reasons or staff shortages due to COVID-19.

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