COVID CORNER | Bronx hits omicron peak as hospitals begin to fill up

COVID, buses, MTA
Case counts in the Bronx have started to drop across the board after a winter surge that has left ICU beds across the borough at dangerously high levels.
Photo Adrian Childress

After a three-week surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the omicron variant that led to multiple hot spots in the central Bronx, the northernmost borough saw key COVID-19 metrics nose-dive by roughly half over the past week.

Entering Monday, the Bronx’s COVID case counts were at 205.2 cases per 100,000 residents, the lowest totals since Dec. 26, 2021, when the borough began seeing a major winter spike in cases. Almost every indicator that the city’s health department uses to track COVID-19 shows that the sharp uptick in infections in New York City connected to the omicron variant continues to drop just as dramatically.

The Bronx’s seven-day positivity rate hovers around 18%, a total that is trending downward from its high of 38% positivity mark just two weeks ago. The clusters of COVID hot spots in Parkchester, Castle Hill and Morris Park that formed in the beginning of 2022 have all but dissipated, as all three locales saw COVID numbers drop to around the city’s median total of 84 cases per 100,000 this week.

The Bronx’s downward trend in cases is also good news for Bronx hospitals, which have seen its ICU spaces rise to a critical 86% capacity — an increase of 2% over the past week — with 154 adult ICU beds occupied by COVID patients. The data, compiled from the latest facility-level data for hospital utilization from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, suggests Bronx hospitals cannot absorb a wave of new COVID infections without substantial surge capacity.

Over the last week, the Bronx has seen its COVID-related death toll rise, as the borough averaged 22 deaths over the past seven days — all 22 deaths were confirmed to be among the unvaccinated, according to state data. In the Bronx, 82.9% of residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines and 990,242, or 69.8%, are fully vaccinated.

The five boroughs of the New York City region appear in a much better place now than it did just two weeks ago, when the seven-day positivity rate exceeded 32% and 23 communities saw rates eclipse 40%.

As of Jan. 21, the city’s seven-day positivity rate was down to 17.67% and falling, and not one neighborhood in the Five Boroughs had a rate exceeding 30%. There is relief being felt by state leaders, such as Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul0 who identified downward trending metrics such as a 12% dip in COVID-19 hospitalizations on Friday.

Hospital admissions in the state’s deepest regions such as New York City, Long Island and the mid-Hudson, which also have the highest adult full vaccination rates per capita in the state — declined by 20% at minimum over the last seven days, the governor said. Those three regions are fueling the overall statewide decrease (-20.8%) on that metric over the last three weeks.

“We are below 10% positivity rate for the second day in a row. This is extraordinary progress,” Hochul said on Saturday. “As we continue to see numbers trend downward, let’s also continue to do the right thing. Wash your hands, get the vaccine if you haven’t already, get the booster dose, and wear a mask. We will continue to see this downward trend in other parts of the state soon.”

U.S. residents can also begin to receive free COVID-19 at-home testing kits from the federal government, the Biden administration’s latest testing plan to alleviate long lines. Home test shortages have made it difficult for Americans to get checked for the omicron variant that is still spiking across other parts of the nation.

According to the new COVIDtests.gov website that launched this week, those who have had difficulty ordering the tests online or “need additional support,” can call 1-800-232-0233 or TTY 1-888-720-7489.

The phone number also serves as the COVID vaccination hotline, which has been in use for several months.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes. 

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