COVID surge: NYC school attendance lags, NY studying hospitalizations

Coronavirus Update for New York
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Many New York City public schools are staying home amid mounting concern over the omicron surge, this as the state is adjusting the way patients are admitted to hospitals and COVID cases are counted.

Classrooms may be open, but city officials say many student aren't showing up -- and Governor Kathy Hochul is telling hospitals to start reporting how many COVID patients are being admitted because they had symptom versus how many cases are being discovered after admission for other reasons.

"Yes, the sheer numbers of people infected are high, but I want to see if the hospital numbers correlate with that," she said. "I'm anticipating seeing a certain percentage overall are not related to being treated for COVID."

That's why the governor is ordering hospitals to change their reporting, with more data suggesting many of these cases are not that severe.

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As of January 2, more than 9,500 people were hospitalized with COVID in New York -- the most since May of 2020 and beyond the peak of last winter's surge.

But a smaller percentage of those patients are going to the ICU -- 13% now versus 28% in April of 2020.

Still, COVID fears are keeping kids at home. Just 67% of public school students actually showed up to class on Monday.

The Department of Education reports that 14,000 positive cases were recorded among public school students and staff since winter break started on December 23.

Officials said 4,157 positive cases were reported in public schools in just the past two days alone, the increase likely from students and staff testing before returning to classes, with 2,476 students and staff getting their positive test results Sunday and another 1,681 on Monday.

Leading up to the winter break, approximately 800 and 900 new cases were reported daily. But higher positive test counts were expected because positive test results from rapid tests are counted in addition to PCR tests.

"This number represents every case called in by principals over the 11 day winter break, as schools remained vigilant in identifying cases, reporting them, and stopping the spread hand-in-hand with the situation room," the DOE said in statement. "The daily number is comparable to our pre-break daily average. Moving forward, our website will be updated to ensure the public has a clear view of the health and safety of our schools."

PS 58 The Carroll School in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, went remote Monday due to a perceived staffing shortage, against city policy.

The principal informed parents that there weren't enough healthy teachers to staff classes, reportedly without asking first for substitute teachers, and that principal is now being probed for possible discipline.

The DOE says the school is open and fully staffed Tuesday.

Officials say hundreds have yet to submit COVID testing consent forms, but Mayor Eric Adams said he and the head of the teachers union -- UFT President Michael Mulgrew -- agree that classrooms should stay open.

"Michael Mulgrew and I are on the same page that we need to create a safe environment," Adams said. "He understands that poor Black and Brown children that are homeless, over 100,000 in the city, did not have access to high speed broadband. He understands that hundreds of thousands of children don't have food at home to eat."

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The mayor also urged businesses to bring workers back to the office.

"We have to reshape our thinking of how do we live with COVID," he said. "We spent $11 trillion on COVID. We don't have another $11 trillion.

Despite the mayor's request, Goldman Sachs just delayed return to office plans, telling workers to stay home until January 18.

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