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The test positivity rate is spiking in NYC after dropping below 1% in June and July. Citywide it stands at 19.6% now
New York state has hit a new single-day high 67,000 COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, and as Gov. Kathy Hochul warns that a spike in cases will continue through January with one-in-five people being tested now infected with the virus.
Hochul on Wednesday reported a statewide test positivity rate of 18.5 percent, with the New York city rate at 19.6 percent, soaring increases from a 5.3 percent rate in the state a month ago. Deaths in the state have also risen, with 97 people dying from the virus in 24 hours – the highest it’s been since February.
‘We’re basically preparing for a January surge. We know it’s coming. And we’re naive to think it won’t,’ Hochul said Wednesday.
‘We do think there’s going to be a spike in cases that’s going to continue, not just in our positive rates but in our hospitalizations.’
Positivity rates in the state approached 50 percent in April of last year, but at that time the tests were extremely scarce and were mostly used in hospital settings.
In New York City, which is being hit hard with the latest surge, where 27,774 people tested positive on Tuesday and roughly one in fifty Manhattan residents who have been tested have contracted the virus in the past week.
Hospitalizations in the state are beginning to rise sharply, though the 6,173 now hospitalized still marks a much lower level than the first wave, when the number approached 20,000, as well as the second peak last winter above 8,000. Statwide, 1,474 new patients were admitted to hospital on Tuesday, with 396 of those in New York City.
Nevertheless, Mayor Bill de Blasio is forging ahead with his plan to host a massive New Year’s Eve bash in Times Square to celebrate the final day of his eight-year reign on Friday, though attendance, usually about 60,000 before the pandemic, will be capped at 15,000 and restricted to the fully vaccinated.
A spokesman for de Blasio told DailyMail.com on Wednesday that the New Year’s Eve plan was moving forward as the mayor previously announced.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is forging ahead with his plan to host a massive New Year’s Eve bash in Times Square to celebrate the final day of his eight-year reign on Friday
People watch and cheer as confetti is released from the Hard Rock Cafe marquee during a ‘confetti test’ on Wednesday ahead of de Blasio’s New Year’s Eve bash in Times Square
Amid the celebrations, huge lines formed in Times Square on Wednesday as people sought COVID tests
New York City set new records for daily cases just before Christmas, and has dropped off only slightly in the days since
Hospitalizations in the state are beginning to rise sharply, though the 6,173 now hospitalized still stands below prior waves
On Tuesday, de Blasio said that the nation’s largest school system, with 1.1 million students, will be abolishing its current policy of quarantining entire classrooms exposed to COVID.
Instead New York city schools will be prioritizing a ramped-up testing program so that asymptomatic students testing negative for COVID-19 can remain in school.
Some parents are hopeful the new policy could limit disruptions to in-person learning, but others fear it could turn schools into super-spreader hotbeds, pointing to signs that rapid tests are less accurate at detecting Omicron.
The new policy was described by de Blasio as ‘Stay Safe, and Stay Open’ and will take effect on January 3. About a million students who attend New York City’s public schools are scheduled to return from holiday break on Monday.
New York city Mayor-elect Eric Adams, de Blasio and New York Governor Kathy Hochul made the announcement at a joint news conference.
The city aims to detect more infections while mitigating disruptions as officials described remote learning as ‘a failed experiment.’
New York city’s previous policy was to quarantine unvaccinated close contacts of infected students for 10 days.
Instead of sending classes of unvaccinated students home to learn online when a student tests positive for COVID-19, the students will be given rapid at-home tests. If they are asymptomatic and test negative, they can return the day after their first negative test.
Students will then be given a second at-home test within seven days of their exposure, according to the announcement.
New York city and Long Island are seeing the highest case rates and account for most new cases in the state
New York city hospitalizations are rising but are still below levels seen in Spring 2020 and last winter
Deaths, which lag cases and hospitalizations, have shown little movement in New York City so far in the Omicron wave
A tourist throws confetti during a ‘confetti test’ Wednesday ahead of New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that attendance for New Year’s Eve in Times Square will be limited to 15,000 with proof of full vaccination
The step raised some concerns among parents. One tweeted that schools should be kept remote for at least a week’s cushion following potential holiday gathering and travel exposure.
Others called for mandatory testing for all children, as well as school employees.
On Wednesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky cast doubt on the efficacy of rapid antigen testing for those who are asymptomatic and recovering from an infection, saying that that use had not been tested by the Food and Drug Administration.
As well, the rapid antigen tests may be less sensitive in detecting the Omicron variant and are leading to ‘false negatives,’ the FDA said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Letitia James lashed out at new CDC guidelines slashing the isolation period for asymptomatic cases in half, to five days from 10.
‘The health and safety of all New Yorkers has always been our top priority, and, in order to protect our communities, we must continue to act responsibly and carefully,’ James said in a statement.
‘It is essential that any employee who is exhibiting any COVID-19 symptom and tests positive not be pressured to return to the workplace before those symptoms subside. We must take the necessary steps to stop the spread of this virus, and this is a basic and common-sense approach,’ she added.
The Omicron wave continues to cause severe staffing disruptions in New York, with urgent care clinic chain CityMD saying it will close 31 clinics citywide due to staff shortages caused by the variant.
Huge lines for COVID testing form in Times Square Wednesday ahead of de Blasio’s New Year’s Eve bash on Friday night
New Yorkers are seen getting Covid tests in Manhattan on Wednesday as the city positivity rate hits 19.6%
CityMD, pictured, closes 31 clinics citywide due to staff shortages caused by Omicron, the health care company said Tuesday
CityMD clinics located throughout the city are key COVID testing sites, and the closures will further limit options for residents who are struggling to find tests.
The company said that the closures were necessary ‘to preserve our ability to staff our sites,’ as CityMD and other COVID-19 testing sites routinely overwhelmed with demand while the Omicron variant continues to rip through the city at unprecedented speeds.
‘This isn’t good,’ resident Kevin Sims, 45, said after showing up at a Jersey City clinic Tuesday for a COVID test only to find the doors locked.
‘I can see flights being canceled, Broadway shows being canceled,’ he said.
‘But urgent care? Kind of scary in a doomsday sort of way. I get it. They’re short staff and doing the best they can, but still scary.’
A worker at CityMD’s Boerum Hills, Brooklyn location on Tuesday said employees hadn’t been told how long the shutdown will last, with the site is set to close on Wednesday.
‘It’s been lines going all the way around the corner even before I get here in the morning,’ the worker said.
‘It’s a crazy time. Everything is weird. If you’re looking for urgent care in this neighborhood you might just have to walk a little bit further,’ he added.
‘Even if you show up here at noon, there’s a good chance that they are already filled up for the rest of the day.’
Nationwide, new cases of COVID-19 have soared to the highest level on record at more than 265,000 per day on average, a surge driven largely by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
And as the Omicron variant takes over as the dominant strain in the country, now accounting for 59 percent of cases, the US on Tuesday recorded 377,014 new cases and 2,377 deaths in 24 hours.
Updated chart: The CDC’s revised chart, above, shows that the Omicron variant (purple) accounted for 23 percent of all cases in the week ending on December 18 and 59 percent of all new cases for the week ending on December 25
The country recorded a seven-day average of 264,546 cases on Tuesday, according to a DailyMail.com analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. The country’s previous record was about 247,503 average daily cases, reported on January 11. Coronavirus deaths have climbed over the past two weeks from an average of 1,200 per day to around 1,500.
Although the number of Americans now in the hospital with COVID-19 is rising, it stands at around 60,000, or about half the figure seen in January, echoing trends from the UK. NHS figures show that hospitalizations in England jumped 65 percent in a week, with more than 10,000 beds now occupied by virus-infected patients.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted a serious error in calculating the prevalence of the variant, overblowing the figure recorded in mid-December by as much as 50 percentage points and sowing confusion as the nation breaks records for new cases.
The agency released a revised chart on Tuesday showing that the new variant accounted for 23 percent of all COVID-19 cases for the week ending on December 18, as opposed to the 73 percent it originally reported.
The chart showed that the Omicron variant accounted for 59 percent of all new cases for the week ending on December 25, meaning the Delta variant has been accounting for far more infections than the agency initially thought, though Omicron is gaining ground quickly.
‘There’s no way around it, it is a huge swing that makes it seem like something went really wrong,’ Dr. Shruti Gohil, the associate medical director for epidemiology and infection prevention at UC Irvine’s School of Medicine, told NPR.
Despite the CDC’s astonishing error, data from the UK suggest that Omicron will soon account for nearly all new cases in the US.
In England, which is several weeks ahead of the US in the Omicron wave, the new variant went from zero to 92 percent of all new cases in the four weeks leading up to December 27, according to data from the UK Health Security Agency.
The CDC corrected its error, to the confusion of many, on the same day that the nation broke its record for the most daily COVID-19 cases. On Monday, 512,553 new cases were reported in the US, marking the country’s largest single-day tally since the beginning of the pandemic. The record-breaking figure was in part the product of a multi-day build up of unreported cases over the Christmas holiday on Saturday, which finally were logged to start the week.