NEW YORK — As the more contagious delta variant continues to spread, particularly among unvaccinated New Yorkers, Dr. Eric Wei says the public hospital system is bracing for another surge in COVID-19 infections.

“We just wish we didn't have to be going through this again because of vaccination rates not being where we want them to be,” said the chief quality officer at NYC Health + Hospitals.

What You Need To Know

  • The city's average hospital capacity is hovering around 67%

  • Doctors say city hospitals are prepared to handle another possible surge in COVID-19 cases

  • Lessons learned from the first wave have been translated to protocol, to keep track of hospital beds and equipment to avoid shortages

  • Emergency plans are in place at all hospitals to expand capacity, if needed

Hospitalization rates across the nation continue to climb and across the state it's up 200% from July. But the city has held steady, filling about 67% of available beds. That is a much more manageable rate than the worst weeks of the pandemic, when the city was over capacity.

"We are not going to be having multiple trailers outside each of the hospitals or expanded morgue capacity,” Wei explained. “But that is what we know today.”

Back then, elective surgeries were canceled and people put off seeking care when they could. In April 2020, NYC Health + Hospitals added more than 760 ICU beds and 2,500 medical beds to accommodate patients.

Both public and private hospitals are closely monitoring metrics to make sure hospital capacity and equipment shortages are never a concern again.

"We have dashboards around, equipment in use, ventilators in use,” explained Dr. Fritz Francois, the chief medical and safety officer at NYU Langone Health. “We can project and so that we are not going to wait until we don’t have this particular equipment. We know where we are relative to the patients that we can anticipate coming in.”

He says NYU Langone currently has 1,900 bed across its system. At the height of the COVID-19 crisis, 1,400 beds were used.

"On the worse day of the pandemic, we converted all our hospitals to COVID-19 hospitals,” Francois said. “Every floor, every ICU was full."

It is a much different situation today, with just a fraction of patients being treated for COVID-19.

Both Dr,Francois and Dr, Wei say the vaccine is the number one tool to keep the city's health care system from being overrun a second time.


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