NEW YORK (WABC) -- COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York have reached a level not seen since last January as the winter surge related to the omicron variant continues to spike cases.
About 50,000 people tested positive for COVID Sunday, Governor Kathy Hochul said, numbers she believes are artificially low because of the holiday weekend.
"We're not in a good place, I'm going to be really honest," she said. "This is the winter surge we predicted."
Hochul said 9,563 people were hospitalized with coronavirus, up from 8,773 the day before. The peak last winter came on January 19, when 9,273 people were hospitalized.
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Additionally, there were 103 COVID-related deaths reported Sunday.
"These numbers are rather shocking, when you think about where we are," she said. "But we have to remind everyone, this is not the first strain of COVID-19. This is not the delta. People are testing positive at a much higher rate, but the severity of the illness is far less than we've seen before. Shocking in the scale and number of people testing positive, but also grateful, so grateful, we are not seeing, now it's been with us for a solid month now, literally, a month later, we can say with certainty that the cases are not presenting themselves as severely as we could have or we had feared. That is the silver lining."
No daily positive test record was set, Hochul said, but that is likely an undercount due to the holiday weekend.
"We know that particularly after families gathered, December 25, over that weekend, and on the holiday weekend just completed with New Year's, there is a lot of human interaction," she said. "And what happens when humans gather, they spread the virus. And we fully anticipate that on top of the surge that has already been ongoing, that there is going to be another wave that is occurring as a result of these holidays."
Still, as New York City public school students go back to school after the winter break, Hochul said she believes every child should be in the classroom.
"My view is every child should be in school, unless they test positive," she said. "The reason, we know this is safe. It is not being spread in schools. They are more likely getting it because of hanging out with relatives and friends and neighborhood. The incidents of it being spread in schools certainly exists, but it is minor compared to other exposures."
Mayor Eric Adams reported Monday night that 1 in 3 students didn't show up to school for the first day back from break -- kept out by fear which he insists has no place.
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The governor announced National Guard members will receive training as EMTs to create new resources at a time when the need is only getting more intense.
Hochul also said she plans to get updated information from hospitals regarding how many people are being hospitalized because of COVID symptoms and how many people are testing positive just while they are in there for other treatments.
"I just want to always be honest with New Yorkers about how bad this is," she said. "Yes, the sheer number of people infected are high, but I want to see whether or not the hospitalizations correlate with that. And I'm anticipating to see that at least a certain percentage overall are not being treated for COVID."
The governor cited anecdotal reports from some hospital leaders that up to 50% of patients who are testing positive for COVID -- and help make up the number of daily COVID-related hospitalizations statistics - are in fact hospitalized for other reasons, like a car accident.
"I've just been doing a random call-around to some of the hospital leaders that I touch base with, and I'm seeing numbers from 20 to sometimes 50%," said Hochul, emphasizing that those numbers are only anecdotal.
Some SUNY colleges in parts of New York will be opened coronavirus testing sites this week.
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