NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Medical experts say this is a critical week for the Omicron variant, as the surge of cases may soon start to decline.

In the meantime, with vaccination rates continuing to lag, children have been more impacted than with other variants, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Monday.

READ MORE: Health Officials Tracking New 'Stealth' Omicron Variant Spreading In Europe, Detected In US

“Our projection is that the peak will be this week or next, and then decline,” said Dr. Rahul Sharma, emergency physician-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

COVID VACCINE

Sharma said the worst days of the Omicron surge are almost behind us, but it continues to threaten hospital capacity. Emergency rooms are getting back to pre-pandemic levels.

Sharma said half of COVID-19 hospitalizations are patients admitted with symptoms, while the other half find out they’re positive while seeking treatment for other conditions.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of children admitted with acute COVID viral syndrome over the last month, as expected, with the rise of case numbers in the community and children being in the under-vaccinated population,” Sharma said.

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As for adults, new data from the New York City Department of Health found those who are unvaccinated and who had COVID in 2020 were more than twice as likely to get re-infected and be hospitalized than those who were vaccinated after an initial infection.

That bucks the argument of having natural immunity against variants.

“We must remain vigilant and cannot let out guard down. Omicron spreads four times as quickly as the other variants,” Sharma said.

While a decline of this variant is looming, COVID is long from being a thing of the past, as epidemiologist Dr. Celine Gounder of NYU Grossman School of Medicine & Bellevue Hospital explained in an interview on CBS Mornings.

“What we’re saying is we’re going to have to co-exist with COVID and how do we do that safely where people are not ending up in the hospital. Where our hospital system is not buckling under the weight of all of those COVID cases as it is now,” Gounder said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

And we’re not there yet, as staff shortages are plaguing many hospitals, from employees getting COVID to others choosing to leave the profession all together due to burnout.

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Experts say the rate of severe cases in children remains low, especially if they are vaccinated. However, less than half of children ages 5 to 17 across the city have had both shots.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas