Hospitals across New York are reporting a concerning surge in COVID-19 patients, signaling the state is in the midst of a summer wave.

While COVID-19 cases typically decrease in the warmer months, health officials are seeing an opposite trend this year.

Emergency room visits for COVID-19 patients are way up than around this time last year. So far New York hospitals reported 750 COVID-19 hospitalizations and an average of 181 visits per week during the month of June.

Stamford Hospital Inundated With Patients During Coronavirus Pandemic
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Compared to June 2023, the numbers were an average of 80 visits per week and 410 hospitalizations.

What is causing this unexpected spike in COVID-19 cases?

Former MVHS Chief Physician Executive Dr. Kent Hall joined the WIBX morning show on Tuesday, July 2, to address the concerning trend. The interview starts at 1:17:25 of the live stream.

Dr. Hall believes the resurgence was caused by the unprecedented heat wave that drove people indoors. He said what is happening now is similar to the colder months, when the nation typically sees an uptick in coronavirus cases because people begin migrating back indoors.

"It's not surprising that we would have a slight uptick," he explained.

Dr. Hall said there are two different variants that are causing this surge in cases, which he says are "quite infectious" but not as lethal as the variants that circulated in 2021 and 2022.

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However, certain groups are more at risk of developing severe health complications should they be infected, such as the immunocompromised and the elderly.

The subvariants currently infecting people are the FLiRT mutations, known as KP and JN, which derived from the JN.1 variant of omicron. There is another strain being reported in New York wastewater samples, which is LB.1.

Current sampling indicates Oneida, Herkimer, Onondaga, Oswego, and Madison do not have elevated levels in their wastewater. Current readings suggest the virus was detected, but not at a quantifiable level.

However, Lewis and Jefferson County are seeing relatively high traces in their wastewater, which indicates cases may be circulating in those areas.

Tracing Covid-19 Clusters Though The Sewers
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Dr. Hall expressed confidence that the lethality of these current variants are not as high as prior strains, which means New York will likely not see a surge in COVID-related fatalities.

"The virus has evolved... And this is what viruses do. Their whole reason to live is to propagate," he explained. "If they were so bad that they killed everybody right away, then actually that would be detrimental to their lifespan."

He expects COVID to continue decreasing in severity and instead become more effective at spreading among people.

"COVID is going to be with us forever. There is no 'This is going to go away,'" he stated. "This is just what we're going to have to live with and, thankfully, it is turning into something that is less concerning to the population as a whole."

As for what New Yorkers can expect with these current strains, Dr. Hall expects those who do come down with COVID this summer will mostly experience a "relative mild illness."

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For those who test positive for the virus, current guidance calls for infected individuals to stay home and away from others for at least 24 hours after symptoms subside, which helps mitigate the spread.

Symptoms New Yorkers should be on the lookout for include sore throat, mild fever, cough, congestion, fatigue, chills, and body aches.

Below are symptoms that may be a sign that an infection is more severe and possibly life threatening.

These COVID Symptoms May Lead to Hospitalizations in New York

Health officials say New Yorkers should be on a close lookout for a number of Omicron symptoms that likely means you need urgent medical care. 

If you suspect you may be infected with COVID, here is the website listing all available  testing sites, including those at no-cost, across the state.

WIBX will speak again with Dr. Kent Hall regarding the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases as well as other health issues that may impact Central New York and the Mohawk Valley.

If there is something you would like us to ask Dr. Hall, send us a message via the station app.

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