Covid-19 cases have been increasing across New York State in recent weeks, with a new Omicron subvariant to blame.
“We have seen an uptick that’s about a threefold increase, largely due to the new EG.5 Omicron variant, which now is the most prevalent variant when these viruses are sequenced,” Dr. Fredric I. Weinbaum, interim chief administrative officer, chief medical officer, and chief operating officer at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, said Tuesday.
The good news, Dr. Weinbaum said, is that even among people who are admitted with Covid, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital has not recently seen patients who are in need of intensive care treatment. More positive news: “96 percent of patients around the country now have antibodies to Covid-19 and only 4 percent of people have no antibodies, which is an impact of vaccination and infection that has created a substantial difference to the severity of the infection.”
EG.5 is a single mutation different from the Omicron variant that plagued the country in January. However, Dr. Weinbaum said that “the infections from EG.5 don’t appear to be any more severe than Omicron.”
According to the New York State Department of Health, over the past week the number of new cases had risen 55 percent and the number of hospital admissions for Covid had risen by 22 percent. Suffolk County’s Covid-19 case tracker on Monday reported that 48 percent of the 75 people who were hospitalized countywide were sick with Covid or complications of Covid, and two were in intensive care.
“Vaccination has a highly significant impact on the risk of death and hospitalization, not too dissimilar to flu vaccination, which reduces the death rate but does not keep people from getting the flu,” Dr. Weinbaum said.
A new booster vaccine will be available in mid to late-September and Dr. Weinbaum recommends that everyone get the shot to prevent a resurgence of the virus. The updated booster will be tailored to the Omicron variant and will also help with the EG.5 strain.
For those who have not received the bivalent booster (one shot with the original strain, and one with the Omicron strain), Dr. Weinbaum suggests getting the shot that is available now, because you have to wait four months to get the new booster.
On the South Fork, according to data from New York State, a relatively small percentage of people were up to date on their Covid-19 vaccinations as of Friday with the lowest rates in Montauk (16.2 percent), East Hampton (22.7 percent), and Sag Harbor (24 percent). Among residents of the Bridgehampton ZIP
code, the rate improved to 37.1 percent, in Sag Harbor it was 24 percent, in Sagaponack it was 45.7 percent, in Amagansett it was 51.2 percent, and in Wainscott the rate was 65.1 percent.
When is the right time to get a booster? “As soon as it’s available, and that’s particularly important for patients 65 and older,” Dr. Weinbaum said, and the same goes for the flu vaccine.
According to the national Centers for Disease Control, Covid and flu shots can be administered at the same time. Dr. Weinbaum noted that an effort is afoot to create a single shot that could vaccinate against Covid and flu and that scientists are also working on a universal Covid vaccine, “that will create antibodies to certain parts of the virus that are stable and will protect you regardless of the variant that occurs. Maybe at that time we’ll see it disappear, just like smallpox.”
The pandemic was declared over by the World Health Organization and the C.D.C., and Covid-19 has now become endemic, meaning it is regularly occurring in the community. Unlike the flu, “It doesn’t seem to go away when the weather gets warm,” Dr. Weinbaum said. “We will be living with it for the foreseeable future.”
Medical professionals the world over are also watching for what’s became known as the ‘tripledemic’ — Covid, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus, which according to the C.D.C. “usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms” but can be more serious in infants and older adults.” The R.S.V. vaccine, recommended for people 65 and older, should not be taken with any other vaccine.
As for masking, the C.D.C. is unlikely to recommend it universally again, but advises that those who are immunocompromised or otherwise at risk wear masks in certain public settings.