COVID hospitalizations spike, at-risk people urged to take precautions

Cyril Josh Barker | 12/3/2020, midnight
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in New York City have reached their highest since June. This week, hospitals reported 1,100 COVID patients ...
Hospital bed Image by cor gaasbeek from Pixabay

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in New York City have reached their highest since June. This week, hospitals reported 1,100 COVID patients as the city vows to use every tool available to fight the second coronavirus wave and prevent more deaths.

The city’s positivity rate continues to climb as expected. Officials warned of a rise in COVID-19 cases after the Thanksgiving holiday when millions traveled across the country. More people are getting tested as they return to the city. The percentage of people testing positive citywide for COVID-19 is now just over 4%.

NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz said that ICU units at the city’s 11 hospitals are about two-thirds full. He said hospitals have been preparing for weeks for the predicted surge.

“We have more than enough ventilators. We purchased a group over the summer, so equipment is a non-issue for us at this moment,” Katz said. “We are well-prepared. We have prepared a number of spaces to be able to take care of people who have COVID by adding HEPA filters into their rooms, creating negative pressure rooms which suck the air out and thereby suck the virus out and protect the health care workers from infection.”

Health officials are focusing their efforts on those who could face serious illness if they contract COVID-19. These include elders or those with underlying health conditions like cancer, heart disease, weakened immunity, obesity, sickle cell disease and diabetes who need to take extra precautions.

“These factors greatly increase the risk of poor outcomes and even death,” said Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dave Chokshi. “I’m issuing a Commissioner’s Notice that warns at-risk New Yorkers about the growth in COVID and that urges appropriate precautions. That means stopping nonessential activities, staying in as much as possible and avoiding social activities outside of your household.”

Chokshi said he plans on working with partner agencies, community-based organizations, doctors, and others to distribute the notice. He added that while those who are at-risk from having serious complications from COVID-19 should be careful, anyone can get infected. Those without underlying health conditions risk spreading COVID-19 to those who do.

The Black community suffers the most for many underlying health conditions. Brooklyn State Sen. Kevin Parker says the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed health care inequities as Blacks are seeing an infection rate three times that of whites and six times the rate of COVID-related deaths.

Taking on this and other racial disparities, like police violence, Parker wants racism declared a public health crisis through a bill he’s proposed and he wants to work with the New York State Commissioner of Health’s office on the impacts of racism.

“One of the things that we know is that Black and Latino communities have higher levels of social determinants of health,” Parker told the AmNews during a recent interview. “We saw during the pandemic that front line workers are primarily Black and Latino. Those folks have to go to work. Many of them are already dealing with health disparities with higher levels of preexisting conditions. Also, they are being misdiagnosed and underdiagnosed significantly higher than whites.”

As COVID-19 cases rise and more people go to the hospital, there’s an urgent need for blood donations. Many COVID patients are in need of blood transfusions that could save their lives. The lack of blood drives since the start of that pandemic has cut down on the city’s blood supply. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he’s set a goal of getting 25,000 New Yorkers to give blood this month to get the supply back up.

“We need to make sure that the blood supply is there for all New Yorkers, any New Yorkers who need it in their hour of need. And people constantly ask me how they can help,” de Blasio said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard just everyday New Yorkers saying, ‘I want to help, I want to do more, I want to help us over this crisis.’ Here’s something everyone can do––you can give blood.”

As an incentive to get more people to give blood, the New York Blood Center is giving donors a chance to win prizes including coach club tickets to New York Jets games, a VIP tour of the Empire State Building and free Krispy Kreme doughnuts for a year.