ALBANY (TNS) — The number of New Yorkers hospitalized with COVID-19 surpassed 5,000 for the first time in nine months on Monday amid a pandemic surge attributed to the omicron variant.

All told, 5,526 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York, up almost 28% from a week ago when there were 4,328 in the hospital, according to state Health Department data.

The last time New York state had more than 5,000 coronavirus patients in the hospital was March 4, when 5,034 were hospitalized at the tail end of a winter wave of infections.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday the rise in hospitalizations has not coincided with a dramatic increase in COVID-related deaths. About 50 to 60 people per day have died in the state from the virus over the past week.

But the rise in patients needing hospital care is troubling, Hochul said at a briefing with reporters Monday.

“You get some comfort in seeing we’re not where we were in April 2020, we’re not where we were in January of 2021, but it is going upwards,” Hochul said. “And that is something that we are very cognizant of and have been anticipating and preparing for.”

The state has been working to increase hospital bed availability to deal with the latest surge.

Hochul said hospital bed availability in the state increased 8% as of Monday, and the number of hospitals with limited capacity decreased from 32 to 25.

The New York surge comes as communities across the United States and around the world reported record levels of COVID-19 cases attributed to the omicron variant.

Over the weekend, Britain, France, Ireland and Italy all reported their highest single-day number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

In the past week, New York has experienced its biggest surge in COVID cases since the start of the pandemic. The number of newly- infected people statewide increased from 13,000 a week ago to almost 50,000 cases on Friday.

Excelsior Pass for vets

Hochul announced Monday that the Excelsior Pass and Excelsior Pass Plus are now available to all military veterans who received their shots at a U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs hospital or health care facility in New York.

Nearly 117,000 currently eligible military veterans can retrieve their secure proof of vaccination from the State’s Excelsior Pass platform.

Before this change was executed, the VA shared COVID-19 vaccination data received by U.S. military veterans living, working and getting vaccinated in New York directly with the federal government. This inoculation data therefore remained outside of the state’s jurisdiction and could not be included in the state’s immunization databases.

Hochul issued an executive order in the fall that began the process to allow the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to transmit immunization records related to COVID-19. Through this coordination, it gave VA the authority to provide this data to allow its veterans to participate in the Excelsior Pass programs. There are now more than 700,000 veterans living in New York.

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