Health officials have confirmed cases of the omicron variant in over a dozen states, including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. New York City, where a Minnesota case of omicron originated, alone has confirmed seven cases.
The number of people testing positive for coronavirus rose over the month of November, from just over 3,000 new cases at the end of October to around 7,500 cases three weeks later when the omicron variant was identified in South Africa and named by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Officials know little about the omicron variant besides indications that it possesses greater transmissibility than other variants, which raises concerns in states already struggling with hospital space.
Connecticut noted that the positivity rate has exceeded 6.5%, with hospitalizations reaching their highest point since April 2021. New Jersey stopped collecting hospitalization data around March 2021.
And hospitalizations have continued to steadily increase in upstate New York: The seven-day average of new hospitalizations per 100,000 has remained roughly the same, but admissions rose from 345 to 508 per day over that time period.
“Hospitalizations are up, get this number, 150 percent upstate versus downstate,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday. “Not that I’m trying to create an upstate-downstate divide in our state,” she added, “but these are the numbers we’re seeing and they’re very troubling.”
Upstate hospitals, in particular, have suffered from the delta surge, according to the New York Times. Gov. Hochul has deployed 120 National Guard troops to support nursing homes at nine facilities across the state.
Hospitals at over 90% capacity may stop elective surgeries as well to help handle the surge.
But so far South Africa has not reported a sharp increase in ICU admissions and deaths due to the omicron variant.
Daily cases tripled over the last week alone, from just under 1,000 cases on Nov. 29 to over 3,000 by Dec. 3, according to a report by the South African Medical Research Council published Saturday. Hospitalizations saw a “sharp rise” but the main observation is that “the majority of patients in the COVID wards have not been oxygen-dependent.”
The “sharp rise” in admissions may also be “incidental,” with a good number of patients testing positive for COVID-19 after admission for another, unrelated reason.
Health officials stressed that the data is only from the first two weeks following the identification of omicron, and they need more time to determine the full severity of cases.