New York City enters higher coronavirus risk level as case count rises

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in New York, the city entered a heightened level of risk for the virus on Monday, a troubling reminder that the pandemic is not over and the virus still has the power to hurt New Yorkers.

The city has moved into the medium or yellow risk category for transmission of the virus, a development that could trigger the return of public health restrictions, although they are not required to reinstate them at this stage.

Mayor Eric Adams, who contracted his first known case of the virus last month, will have to make tough decisions about whether to reinstate mask and vaccine mandates at a time when he is focused on the economic recovery of the city ​​and where workers return to their offices.

The city is now seeing nearly 2,500 new cases a day, a significant jump from around 600 daily cases in early March. The latest surge, fueled by the highly contagious subvariant of Omicron known as BA.2, does not rival Omicron’s first surge in December and January, but recorded case levels are as high as they were when the Delta variant swept through town last year.

Additionally, case levels in New York and across the country are likely much higher than official statistics because many residents test from home and positive home tests are generally not included in official tallies.

Adams stressed that hospitalizations and deaths remain low; there are currently more than 50 new hospitalizations and four or five deaths on average in the city every day. In January, new hospitalizations rose to 1,000 a day and deaths to more than 120 a day.

New Yorkers had celebrated a six-week lull in cases that began in mid-February, and many of life’s normal routines had returned. Friends gathered for the celebrations. Workers roamed offices without masks. Metro ridership has increased.

In early March, Mr. Adams rolled back longstanding restrictions, including mask mandates in schools and proof of vaccination requirements in restaurants, gyms and cinemas. The mayor stood in Times Square and said, “It’s time to reopen our city.

But cases soon started to rise again and Mr Adams canceled his plans to end mask requirements in preschools and daycares. Several Broadway shows have been shut down as the virus spread through their castings.

Mr. Adams, a Democrat who took office in January, appears reluctant to bring back terms. He said last month he would consider doing so, but added that he agreed with Governor Kathy Hochul’s comments about the importance of moving forward.

“We have to take everything into account,” Mr. Adams said. “I think Governor Hochul was right when she said we can’t shut down our city.”

Mr. Adams also said he supports maintaining a mask mandate on the subway, which Ms. Hochul has maintained for all public transit across the state.

Many New Yorkers might be ready to ride out the pandemic, but the virus is spreading fast again. As a result, the city should consider reinstating some public health restrictions that have expired, said Gregg Gonsalves, associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health.

“People can be fed up, angry, tired and frustrated – so am I,” he said. “But wishing the pandemic was gone doesn’t make it that way.”

Mr. Adams introduced the color-coded alert system in March, based on parameters set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York had since remained at the lowest risk level, represented by the color green, meaning virus cases had mostly remained below 200 per 100,000 population per week; the city has now passed that threshold, Dr Ashwin Vasan, the health commissioner, said on Monday.

The alert system lists several steps Mr. Adams should consider at the medium level: Requiring masks in schools and restoring the city’s system to check for proof of vaccinations at restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues. interiors, known as Key to NYC

If the city enters the high risk level, represented by the color orange, then Mr. Adams should consider requiring face masks in all public indoor settings, according to the alert system.

Mr Adams said last month that the key word in the guidelines was ‘consider’ and that the rules were only guidelines.

“I will consider all the information and then after meeting with my health team we will make a decision,” he said.

State health officials recently announced a disturbing new development: two new versions of the subvariant – BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, which appear to be spreading faster than BA.2 – appear to be at the origin of large increases in cases in upstate New York, where more than 30 counties, including those containing Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Binghamton, have already entered the high level of community transmission, according to the CDC

The city’s alert system is also based on a new CDC color-coded system that has increased the number of cases needed to raise an alert level. Under the old version, most of the Northeast, including New York, would already be considered a red or high-transmission zone.

Dr. Jay Varma, director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response, said he was skeptical of the usefulness of the alert level because changes to it do not trigger real policy changes and because it doesn’t take into account how fast things get worse.

“The problem is that going from low to medium on the health department website doesn’t really change anything,” said Dr. Varma, who was also a special adviser to former mayor Bill de Blasio. “It is very difficult to set an alert level that is not considered a real trigger for direct action.”

Nearly 88% of adults in the city are fully immunized, but rates are lower among children. Only about 45% of adults received booster doses, which experts say is crucial because protection from initial doses wanes.

Elected officials shouldn’t frame the debate as a choice between keeping the economy open and implementing protective measures, Gonsalves said, noting that when more New Yorkers get sick, it means they can’t. not go to work.

“No one is suggesting Mayor Adams or Governor Hochul should shut things down or go back to April 2020,” he said. “Modest steps to protect the health of New Yorkers are warranted.”

Leave a Comment