What the Omicron Wave Looks Like at One Brooklyn ER

But the patients keep coming, 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 first wave. About half of all patients in the city’s hospitals now have Covid-19.

And there just aren’t enough nurses to take care of them all. Across New York, hospitals generally employ fewer nurses than at the start of the pandemic, according to the New York State Nurses Association, a union.

Some nurses, burnt out with stress, have left the profession; others have taken traveling nurse jobs at significantly higher wages. And the extreme contagiousness of the Omicron variety has resulted in many being sick or isolated on any given day.

dr. Sylvie de Souza, who runs the emergency room at Brooklyn Hospital Center, said she had enough doctors but never had so few nurses. Some days she only had three quarters of the nurses she needed. Wednesday it was almost half.

“During the first wave, we were able-bodied,” she said. “But now we are exhausted and many are sick.”

On Wednesday, Dr. de Souza before 8am and left around 11pm, her typical schedule during peak Covid-19 periods. She tried her best as she could, at one point filling cups at a water cooler and handing them out to patients, some of whose lips were dry and cracked.

But the camaraderie that kept hospital workers alive in early 2020—when faced with a deadly new pathogen for lack of protective equipment draped in garbage bags—sometimes felt like it was worn out.

“Please, that disappeared pretty quickly,” said Ms Williams, who was on maternity leave during the first wave of Covid-19 and returned to work in June 2020.