But patients keep arriving, and in droves: more than 15,000 people with Covid-19 have been hospitalized in the city in the past four weeks, the most since the initial wave. About half of all patients in the city’s hospitals now have Covid-19.
And there just aren’t enough nurses to care for them all. Across New York, hospitals are generally employing fewer nurses than at the start of the pandemic, according to the New York State Nurses Association, a union.
Some nurses, exhausted by stress, left the profession; others took traveling nursing jobs at considerably higher pay. And the extreme infectiousness of the Omicron variant means that many are sick or isolated on any given day.
Dr. Sylvie de Souza, who directs the emergency room at Brooklyn Hospital Center, said she had enough doctors but had never had so few nurses. Some days she only had three quarters of the nurses she needed. Wednesday was closer to half.
“During the first wave, we were valid,” she said. “But now we are exhausted and many are sick.”
On Wednesday, Dr. de Souza arrived before 8 a.m. and left around 11 p.m., his typical schedule during peak Covid-19 times. She participated wherever she could, at one point filling cups with water and dispensing them to patients, some of whom were dry and cracked lips.
But the camaraderie that helped sustain hospital workers at the start of 2020 — when, draped in trash bags for lack of protective gear, they faced a deadly new pathogen — sometimes felt like it s was blunt.
“Please, that went away pretty quickly,” said Ms Williams, who was on maternity leave during the first wave of Covid-19 and returned to work in June 2020.