New York City is preparing for the potential raise its COVID alert level for the second time this month as a fifth pandemic wave, driven by highly contagious sub-variants of the potent omicron tribe, tightens its grip on the metro area and the nation.
Mayor Eric Adams’ office indicated a change could come within “days” of a COVID emergency update on Monday. The Democrats’ team also said a new mask advice from the health ministry has been issued urging everyone to cover their face indoors.
The five districts has been in a “medium” COVID alarm mode since May 2nd after exceeding a key threshold – 200 new daily cases per. 100,000 inhabitants over a rolling seven-day period. An upgrade to “high” alarm status would also require COVID admissions to reach a critical benchmark – 10 new admissions per day. 100,000 inhabitants on a rolling basis – too. And the five districts are uncertainly close.
At the time health officials announced the change to medium alarm, the rolling hospitalization rate was 6.8 per month. 100,000 inhabitants, while the rolling new case was 218.22. Both rates have since been steadily rising to 9.2 and 303.33 now.
Any upgrade to high alarm status would, strictly speaking, be associated with concern over overwhelming the health care system in the form of hospitalizations. To this point, the infections have been soaring, but the symptoms have been mild and the hospitalization rate has remained manageable. Officials do not expect another serious increase like the one omicron that was triggered in January, but they are wary of the need to reserve resources.
Should the alarm level be raised, as the health department expects, it will not trigger new COVID mandates. These would only be considered if the alarm level reached “very high”, which is the highest of the four levels, health officials say.
But the recommendations are clear. The health advice issued by city officials on Monday urges all residents to wear high-quality face masks – such as KN95 and KF94 masks and N95 respirators – when indoors and in public settings, including grocery stores, building lobbies, offices, shops and other shared spaces where individuals can interact (think toilets, hallways, meeting areas).
The advice conveys a particularly urgent nature around facial clothing for people who are at high risk of serious illness and death as a result of COVID, namely those who are older than 65 years or have not been vaccinated, say the city’s health authorities.
Anyone who is not eligible for vaccination due to age or other reason is encouraged to avoid crowded surroundings and unnecessary gatherings, especially indoors.
New York City had managed to evade most of it omicron subvariant-driven COVID spread blamed for high infection rates in other parts of the state, as well as central New York and the western regions, in recent months. But the needle moves.
All but one of New York State’s 62 counties are now considered to be at the high or mid-level community COVID risk by the CDC, whose guidelines New York City health officials use for their own benchmark. The only county is the Bronx, which has the second lowest full vaccination rate of the five boroughs and high test rates (Mott Haven / Port Morris zip code has the highest median test rate in town now).
However, the Bronx’s unique distinction is unlikely to last much longer. As of Monday, it is on the verge of hitting the critical 200 new COVID cases per. 100,000 inhabitants sitting at 191.51). It is the lowest rolling rate in the city.
The state of Iceland and Manhattan feed on the latest transmission increases with rolling cases per capita. 100,000 at 380.77 and 334.31, respectively, followed by Queens (322.6) and Brooklyn (275.79).
Queens’ Bellerose, Bayside Flushing and Long Island City neighborhoods as well as Manhattan’s Murray Hill, NoMad and Roosevelt Island carry zip codes in percent positivity. Rolling hospitalization and death rates by zip code published with a 14-day delay so they have not been updated on the city page since data covers April 5-2. May.
Overall, the average for new cases across the city has risen 13% compared to the average for the previous four weeks, and the rolling positivity rate is over 9%, according to the city’s health department’s latest report.
Crude hospitalization rates are falling steadily, but given the delay factor associated with this metric, health authorities are likely to expect them to rise slightly.
Newly confirmed COVID deaths fluctuate slightly from day to day, but for the most part, any percentage change in either direction reflects around five people, a relatively small number but one of crucial importance to the families of these victims.
Across the country, the COVID picture follows a similar trend.
New cases per. 100,000 stands at 48.3 from the state’s latest report, up from 28.3 a month ago. For New York City, state data currently indicates that rate at 42.9, a 64% increase in a month from 26.1. Long island and western New York has the highest rolling new case rates of the state’s 10 regions (60.4 and 61.5, respectively).
In terms of state-wide hospital admissions, these are up to 2,373 in total from Governor Kathy Hochul’s latest update, nearly doubling in the last month. Still, the total number is mercifully well below the 12,452 inpatients across New York in January – and a fraction of the nearly 19,000 inmates at the hospital admission stop in April 2020.
The positivity rates in Nassau and Suffolk counties climbed above 11 percent, putting Long Island at a high COVID risk level. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.
These, say elected officials and public health officials, are reasons to remain vigilant, but not cause for panic. This is especially true given the breadth of tools available, they add.
“The best way to prevent serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 is by getting fully vaccinated and staying up to date on your booster doses,” Hochul, a Democrat, said in his latest COIVD update.
“While more than 3 in 4 of all New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, and over half of all eligible New Yorkers have received a booster dose, it is still not enough,” she added. “We need more New Yorkers to use this important tool so that we can continue to protect our loved ones and our community from COVID-19.”