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Upstate New York Hospitals Are Overwhelmed as Covid Cases Surge

Covid-19 is widespread in Warren County, where there are 93 cases per 100,000 residents, about 5 times the rate in New York City. The virus test positivity rate is 12 percent, compared to 2 percent in New York City.

Yet masking in local stores in Glens Falls appeared uncommon, even as urgent care centers and hospitals fill with patients seeking tests and appointments. The county’s vaccination rate for all residents is 72 percent, which is actually above the state average of 69 percent, but a combination of relaxed precautions, waning immunity and the increased infectiousness of Delta is propelling cases there, as elsewhere.

“It’s so bad in this area,” said Dr. Jeremy Di Bari, a family physician who works for Hudson Headwaters Health Network and sees patients at Glens Falls Hospital and several urgent care centers in rural parts of Warren County. Dr. Di Bari contracted Covid himself when it spread through his family, despite being fully vaccinated. “I don’t think it’s going to get better,” he said. “I hope it won’t get much worse.”

Erie County, which encompasses Buffalo, has seen one of the state’s steepest rises in hospitalizations in recent weeks. The Erie County Medical Center is completely full, with patients waiting in the emergency room to be admitted. At the same time, there are 500 job openings at the hospital, which has a current work force of about 3,600, hospital executives said.

In the same pattern as in Glens Falls, there are patients — 52 of them — who could be discharged if there were only nursing homes or group homes that had space for them. While the hospital is not turning away people seeking care, between 10 and 20 percent of people coming to the emergency room are walking out without being seen because wait times are so long, officials said.

“The convergence of issues is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Tom Quatroche, the medical center’s chief executive officer. “We had these high volumes previously, but we could discharge them to other settings, and we had the staff to handle the volume. We are finding ourselves in a situation where the lack of staffing in the broader community, and in the hospital, is just creating a perfect storm.”

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