One major difference: At the peak of the pandemic, there were 970 COVID patients in the ICU at the city’s 11 public hospitals. As of Thursday, there were just 54.
The number of COVID cases in New York City has more than doubled in the last week. And after what the city went through in 2020, it certainly sounds alarming — so why are the governor and the mayor telling us that this time is different?
That has more to do with what’s happening inside hospitals — or in this case, what isn’t happening.
In March 2020, emergency room physician Dr. Matthew Bai was exasperated and traumatized by the sheer magnitude of sickness he witnessed on a daily basis the front lines of COVID.
“The things I see in the ER are scary, I’m a little scared myself,” he said as part of a Facebook video diary he recorded at the time. “You can see there’s patients everywhere because of this … even though we’re overflowing, we’re still trying to provide them care.”
But these days, Dr. Bai is calm, as is the scene at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Queens. Both are somewhat surprising, given how the omicron surge has New York City at a record level of COVID cases.
Dr. Bai said repeated what many other health officials have said is a cause for calm, at least for now.
“What’s different from last few waves, the cases really aren’t that severe anymore,” he said.
He said that is likely a product of the effectiveness of vaccines, in addition to what appears to be a more contagious, but less deadly, variant.