BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — With COVID rates rising, Governor Kathy Hochul announced Monday that she wants more clarity when it comes to patients being hospitalized specifically for COVID.
“But we don't have clear data, right now that's anecdotal,” declared Hochul.
Governor Hochul says she wants to “be honest with New Yorkers” to see whether or not hospitalizations correlate with high infection rates fueled by the Omicron variant.
“Is that person in the hospital because of COVID or did they show up there and are routinely tested and showing positive and they may have been asymptomatic or even just had the sniffles?” remarked Hochul
Hospitals state-wide must now report on how many patients are hospitalized with COVID symptoms and how many tested positive while being treated for other health reasons.
“It does help to differentiate. I think that understanding the true burden of COVID in knowing how sick people are getting,” Amy Wojciechowski, infection prevention, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center explained. “We are seeing that an increase in the number of patients in the emergency department as well as in the outpatient setting testing positive, so usually that's a precursor to patients being admitted to the hospital.”
But area hospitals leaders tell 7 News they've already been gathering that data.
“I know that my emergency management team and our infection control team has been keeping documents on this since the first patient,” noted Charlene Ludlow, chief safety officer, Erie County Medical Center.
ECMC’s Ludlow says she's glad the governor is now asking for this specific breakdown.
Ludlow noted there are currently 98-positive COVID patients at ECMC, but only 50-percent have a primary diagnosis of COVID.
“The other 50-percent are here for other things they would have been coming in for, but because we are looking very carefully to make sure we have a safe environment for these patients, we are testing them early,” Ludlow explained.
State-wide hospitalization numbers are the highest since the pandemic started, with more than 10,000 as of January 4, 2022. But now the added data will give a better idea of who is sick with COVID at hospitals.
“I think that information and transparency will lead to trust,” remarked Dr. Michael Mineo, chief medical officer, Kaleida Health.
Dr. Mineo says it is important to get all the hospital numbers in front of the public to help put the Omicron surge in better perspective.
“At the current state with Omicron there are people with positive tests who don't actually have disease, so now we are differentiating — who has a positive test, but is actually doing well, versus who's actually hospitalized for COVID,” replied Mineo.
Wojciechowski said at Niagara Falls Memorial hospitalizations peaked in mid-December, but now they are down about 30-percent. However, with Omicron they are starting to see a new rise in COVID patients.
“Knowing which ones are sick enough from COVID to be in the hospital versus who in the hospital has COVID and is here for other reasons,” Wojciechowski responded.