“Right now, there are about a thousand people hospitalized with COVID-19 across New York City. That’s about a quarter of where we were at the peak of last winter’s wave and less than a tenth of where we were in the spring of 2020,” health commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said on Monday, blaming the rise in infections on the “Omicron wave.”
Chokshi echoed a narrative that has been repeated by federal health officials that unvaccinated people are at risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms due to the Omicron variant.
“The fact that New York City has built up our vaccination rate—we have over 70 percent of our entire population that’s fully vaccinated—it will help. It’s a sea wall against the Omicron wave. We have to continue building upon that with booster doses and getting as many people vaccinated as possible,” he said Monday.
The South African ministry of health officials last week said that the rate of hospitalization from Omicron is about one-tenth of Delta’s hospitalization rate during its initial wave earlier this year.
Only around 1.7 percent of identified COVID-19 cases led to hospitalization in the past two weeks, said Health Minister Joe Phaahla in a news conference. He compared that rate to the 19 percent hospitalization rate when the Delta variant was first surging.
“In terms of absolute numbers, we are still at a low level with just over 7,600 patients admitted,” Phaahla said.
Some analysts noted that South Africa has a much lower vaccination rate than the U.S. or European Union, although the population is younger.
Waasila Jassat, a researcher with South Africa’s National Institute For Communicable Diseases, told Bloomberg that hospitalized patients show less severe symptoms than patients who were hospitalized with the Delta variant.
“For the first time there are more non-severe than severe patients in the hospital,” said Jassat. “We have seen a decrease in a proportion of people who need to be on oxygen. They are at very low levels,” Jassat said.
Nonetheless, federal U.S. health officials, including President Joe Biden, have warned that unvaccinated people are at risk of dying during a predicted winter surge.
“In the coming weeks, Tony, we are going to see a spike in cases. And that’s because Omicron is incredibly transmissible, and you know, we have to be prepared for that,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said during a Monday interview with CNN. “But there will be a stark difference between the experience of those who are vaccinated and boosted versus those who are unvaccinated.”
Biden is slated to echo those remarks during an address on Tuesday.