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Most new COVID-19 patients in NY not working, older: survey

by Assoicated Press
May 9, 2020

By Karen Matthews, Marina Villeneuve And Michael Hill
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) The great majority of people newly hospitalized with the coronavirus in New York are either retired or unemployed and were avoiding public transit, according to a new state survey, the first such look at people still getting seriously ill despite six weeks of severe social distancing.

The survey of 1,269 patients admitted to 113 hospitals over three recent days confounded expectations that new cases would be dominated by essential workers, especially those regularly traveling on subways and buses.

Retirees accounted for 37% of the people hospitalized. Another 46% were unemployed. Almost three-quarters were 51 years or older. Only 17% were working.

Only 4% were still using public transportation in their daily life, they survey found, though it also noted that information on transit use was only available for about half the people surveyed.

“We were thinking that maybe we were going to find a higher percentage of essential employees who were getting sick because they were going to work, that these may be nurses, doctors, transit workers. That's not the case,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his daily briefing.

The survey also showed, however, that 18% of the people admitted to hospitals with the virus had been transferred from nursing homes, underscoring the difficulty those facilities have had controlling infections.

People were far less likely to be hospitalized in other institutional settings. Fewer than 1% were in jails; 4% were in assisted living; 2% in congregate housing and 2% were homeless.

It also found that African-Americans and Hispanics were being hospitalized at far greater rates that whites, mirroring other studies.

While hospitalization rates have been easing in New York, an average of more than 600 people per day have been admitted to hospitals in the state over the past three days.

The virus killed 232 people in the state Tuesday, Cuomo said, and nearly 2,800 people tested positive for the virus.

The state's survey of newly hospitalized patients matches what doctors are seeing in the field, said Dr. Frederick Davis, emergency room physician at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

“Many of the patients that are presenting now are older. Early on we saw a wide range of individuals that were presenting with respiratory symptoms. As time has gone on we have seen more presentations in the older populations,” he said.

With expanded availability of testing, Davis said, younger patients with milder symptoms are getting treated at home or by their primary care physicians. People still working also now know, unlike in March, that the virus is very widespread, so they are taking additional precautions.

“I believe those that are on the frontlines have been heeding warnings and have taken the necessary precaution with the right protection to limit their risk of infection,” Davis said.

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