New York State has quietly surpassed more than 60,000 deaths from the coronavirus, new data reveals.
The state Health Department reported 47,492 COVID-19-related deaths as reported by hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities only.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a more complete death tally based on death certificate data reported by state and city health officials.
The CDC reports 60,253 deaths in New York State, crossing the 60,000 mark last week amid a flare-up in COVID-19 cases from the new highly contagious Omicron strain.
More than 800,000 Americans have died from the virus.
New York surpassed 50,000 deaths from the virus in late March.
The good news: the death rate in New York has dropped significantly from earlier COVID-19 outbreaks because most residents have been vaccinated or built up immunity from prior infection, health officials said.
“We were able, thank goodness, to persuade the older group of people to get vaccinated and get their booster,” said Ayman El-Mohandes, dean of the City University of New York’s School of Public Health.
“We should expect a slower death rate.”
Still, El-Mohandes said, the grim milestone “is a sad moment” for the Empire State.
“All of us know people who have passed on,” he said.
There were 59 deaths on Friday, markedly lower than the 102 daily seven-day average death toll last December, when vaccines weren’t widely available.
In mid-January, deaths peaked at 175 per day, according to an analysis by the Empire Center for Public Policy.
A year ago, there were 8,000 to 9,000 COVID-19 related hospitalizations. By comparison, there were 3,909 hospitalizations as of Friday.
A record number of people, more than 21,000 each on Friday and Saturday, have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days across the state.
“Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths in NY remain far below levels of the same time last year. With high vaccination levels + currently steep increase in tests, case count alone is more misleading than ever,” tweeted the Empire Center’s senior analyst E.J. McMahon.
But El-Mohandes cautioned that the Omicron surge could still overwhelm hospitals, disrupt patient care and strain already burned out medical staffers, causing labor shortages.
“We can’t sustain a health care system at a crisis level forever. The health care system is not built to deal constantly in a crisis mode,” he said.
The jury is still out on how many people will get sick or get mild or no symptoms from the latest Omicron outbreak or end up hospitalized. That won’t be evident for another few weeks, health officials said.
The high transmission for the Omicron is cause for concern and people should take precautions, public health experts have said.
“There’s simply no way Covid could spread this fast unless it’s riding roughshod over immunity from vaccination and prior infection. We still don’t know how well immunity protects from severe illness. Will take weeks to figure out protection from vaccine, prior infection, both,” said former CDC Director and ex-New York City Health Commissioner Tom Frieden said in a thread on twitter.
“Even if Omicron is less severe, unless it’s LOTS less severe, it could double the current already-high US death rate to 2,000/day or more by mid-February. There’s a major risk that hospitals will be overwhelmed in the next two months.
“Bottom line: Omicron is still Covid, it’s still capable of doing damage to your body. And it’s still capable of overwhelming our health systems. It’s shaping up to be a hard winter. Get vaccinated and boosted ASAP.
“Older adults face the highest risk of hospitalization and death from Covid, and they need all the protection they can get,” Frieden said.