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December 15, 2021

YNHH officials: Omicron variant here; COVID numbers climbing

PHOTO | Steve Laschever Yale New Haven Health CEO Marna Borgstrom

The number of patients hospitalized throughout the Yale New Haven Health system has risen sharply in recent weeks, healthcare leaders said Wednesday. 

“We are losing people to COVID every week,” CEO Marna P. Borgstrom said, in a morning press briefing.

The health system had 210 COVID inpatients as of Wednesday, with the highly contagious Omicron variant representing about 10% of those positive cases.

In comparison, in mid-November, the health system had 72 inpatients with COVID-19. The number is still significantly lower than the 2020 peak, when it surpassed 800.

According to Borgstrom, the hospital currently is seeing significant patient flow.

“I don’t think we have ever been busier,” Borgstrom said. “Some of it is due to COVID, and others are people who didn’t seek treatment (for other ailments) while hunkered down (because of COVID).” 

Of the 210 current COVID inpatients, 112 were at Yale New Haven Hospital, 56 were at Bridgeport Hospital, nine at Greenwich Hospital, 20 at Lawrence + Memorial in New London, and 13 at Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island.

As of Wednesday morning, 51 of the COVID inpatients were in intensive care and 24 were on ventilators, according to Borgstrom.

The patients in the ICU tend to be older and unvaccinated, according to Borgstrom. Of those currently hospitalized, 12.5% are fully vaccinated.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s office indicated on Tuesday that 681 individuals statewide were hospitalized due to COVID-19, and of those, 76.5% are not fully vaccinated. The state virus death toll was up to 8,946.

Dr. Thomas Balcezak, executive vice president and chief clinical officer at Yale, said that while the health system is busy, it still has capacity for more patients. 

The Omicron variant appears more likely to spread, but may be slightly less dangerous and deadly than prior ones, according to Balcezak, who anticipates it will become the dominant variant. Currently, he said most local cases involve the Delta variant.

Yale New Haven Hospital is adding 35 beds to its emergency department area, he noted.

Balcezak said non-COVID patients in many cases have postponed their care, and are presenting with later stages of disease. For example, there have been more people who have heart attacks, but delayed care, and now are arriving with heart failure. People who delayed colonoscopies are presenting with more advanced stage cancers, according to Balcezak.

“We are seeing an uptick in flu also, which may portend for a busy flu season,” Balcezak said.

Staffing woes; COVID treatments showing promise

The health system has several staff vacancies, partly due to health workers leaving the profession due to COVID-related burnout, officials said. The health system is putting together recruitment and retention plans in an effort to counteract the trend.

Meanwhile, Balcezak said Wednesday he is looking forward to FDA approval of new medicines for use against COVID. 

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which has a Groton presence, is seeking emergency use authorization from the FDA for Paxlovid, its COVID-19 oral antiviral candidate.

On Tuesday, Pfizer announced that results from an analysis of 2,246 adults enrolled in its Phase 2/3 trial of Paxlovid mirrored earlier results, which showed the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% compared to a placebo.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, said emerging variants like Omicron have “exacerbated the need for accessible treatment options for those who contract the virus.”

“We are confident that, if authorized or approved, this potential treatment could be a critical tool to help quell the pandemic,” Bourla said. 

Contact Michelle Tuccitto Sullo at

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