ALBANY — The state Department of Health released a more in-depth analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York state, and of the 5,489 people who have died 4,522 were over age 60 and more than 86 percent had other health issues. To view the DOH webpage click here.
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The most prevalent underlying health issue was hypertension, or high blood pressure, which when coupled with the COVID-19 virus attributed to the death of 3,043 people. The second was diabetes, which attributed to 2,049 deaths, followed by hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol, which attributed to 1,014 deaths. A person could have had multiple underlying health issues in addition to COVID-19 which all attributed to death.
Hypertension is caused by a host of reasons including poor diet, not managing stress, a lack of exercise, excessive body weight, too much alcohol or by the natural aging process. It is estimated that about half of the population have high blood pressure and most don’t realize it. There are different degrees, though, and while it can be treated by lifestyle modifications and/or medication, and it can lead to heart disease, a heart attack or a stroke.
According to the DOH, 61 percent of the deaths were male.
The data does not indicate how many people were older who died without any underlying health issues. It also does not indicate the severity of the underlying illness before COVID-19 entered the equation.
Meanwhile, the numbers in this state indicate a “plateau” of the outbreak, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his daily press briefing on Tuesday, April 7, a day he ironically reported the highest number of single day deaths in state, 731, so far.
The good numbers are related to the bad because as people die, hospitalization rates, intubation rates and those in the ICU decrease.
“If they are treated, most are released and some stay and some are put on a ventilator and the longer you are on a ventilator the less likely you will come off a ventilator,” Cuomo said. “The number of deaths are from people who came in at the peak and they were on a ventilator.”
The three day average of new hospitalizations, though, was down to 529 on April 6, the lowest number since the 475 reported on March 20.
The number of ICU admissions was 89 on April 6, the lowest since the 77 reported on March 20. And the number of patients on April 6 who required a ventilator was 69, the lowest since the 27 who required intubation on March 20.
“Right now, we are reaching the plateau in the number of hospitalizations. This is all based on projections and it depends on what we do and what we do will affect those numbers,” he said. “It is not an act of God we are looking at, it is about what society actually does.”
Cuomo extended the statewide shutdown, in conjunction with New Jersey and Connecticut, until the end of April. That includes the shuttering of all non-essential businesses, all schools and all fines of up to $1,000 for people who gather in groups.
While the numbers are encouraging, Cuomo said, getting back to normal is not like “flicking a light switch.”
The key, he said, is testing. Not only rapid-result testing for the virus but also testing those who have recovered in the hopes of getting a vaccination similar to a flu shot.
To do that, said Dr. Howard Zucker, head of the state Health Department, the people who have had the virus and resolved are key.
“It is important to make sure the tests we are measuring had the infection opposed to those who have the infection,” he said. “The body makes immunoglobin after the body has resolved and that is what we want to develop the test for.”
In addition to private labs across the country, the state is developing the tests at its Wadsworth Center lab facility in Albany and is working with the federal Food and Drug Administration on approvals and implementation.
Both tests are possible to make, but the challenge is to make them “to scale,” or enough for universal use. There are some 19.5 million people in New York state and 327.2 million people in the U.S.