Most new COVID cases in New York are non-essential workers staying at home

May 6, 2020

Slide from Governor Cuomo’s 5/6/20 press presentation

New York State has been on a downward trajectory for the past couple of weeks when it comes to COVID-related deaths and ICU admissions. However, even as the number of new cases trends down, it still is a strikingly large number considering all of the shut-down measures. It was only at the very end of April that the number of new daily COVID cases entering the hospital system dropped below 1,000. Yesterday, there were 601 new cases and 659 and 717 the days prior. To understand this, Governor Cuomo asked hospitals to begin surveying these new patients. There was a lot of speculation that the data would show essential workers riding public transit or vulnerable groups such as those in nursing homes or the prison system. However, the reality is that most of the recent new COVID cases are non-essential workers who are at home and not riding public transit.

The preliminary results are based on 1,269 survey responses collected over three days at 113 hospitals across the state. It shows that most of those being hospitalized are downstate. The regional/county breakdown is as follows:

  • New York (Manhattan): 21%
  • Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk counties): 18%
  • All other: 14%
  • Queens: 13%
  • Kings: 13%
  • Rockland and Westchester counties: 11%
  • Bronx: 9%
  • Richmond (Staten Island): 1%

In New York City, more people of color are being hospitalized. Throughout the five boroughs, the data shows:

  • African America: 25%
  • Hispanic or Latino: 20%
  • White: 24%
  • Other: 22%
  • Asian: 8%
  • Native Hawaiin: 1%
  • AI/AN: 0%

State-wide, males account for 52% of hospitalizations (48% female), and an overwhelming majority, 96%, have comorbidities. As the governor emphasized, the age breakdown shows that even those in their 50s are being hospitalized at a high rate:

  • 0 to 10: 1%
  • 10 to 20: 2%
  • 21 to 30: 6%
  • 31 to 40: 8%
  • 41 to 50: 8%
  • 51 to 60: 14%
  • 61 to 70: 20%
  • 71 to 80: 19%
  • 81 to 90: 14%
  • 91+: 6%

As seen in the charts above, the source of admission is the most shocking, with 66% of those new hospital cases coming from those who are at home and 84% of whom are using no form of transportation but are at home. Further exemplifying that fact is the employment status of those who responded to the survey:

  • Unemployed: 46%
  • Retired: 37%
  • Employed: 17%

To put it all together, according to the governor’s presentation, these initial findings show that persons being newly hospitalized with COVID are generally:

  • Not working
  • Not traveling
  • Predominantly downstate
  • Predominantly minority
  • Predominantly older
  • Predominantly non-essential employees
  • Predominantly at home

Governor Cuomo did not offer insights into how to offset these trends, but he reemphasized that much of it comes down to personal behavior like wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer, and protecting vulnerable populations.


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