New York officials reported 21,027 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest one-day total since the earliest days of the pandemic, when the availability of tests was not as widespread as it is now.
The data reflecting the test results for Thursday showed a drastic change in the virus’ presence in New York. The number of cases had risen steadily for weeks, mainly due to a winter increase, which was driven by the delta variant. However, the surge in recent days is due to the rapidly spreading variant of Omicron, epidemiologists believe.
Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, said the variant of Omicron now appears to infect more people in New York than in other parts of the country.
“With that in mind, it kind of reminds me of March 2020,” she said. “We are taking the first wave of Omicron in this country and, similar to the last time in New York, we will essentially be the testing ground for what this variant will achieve.”
Virus cases in the state have increased 56 percent in the past 14 days, and hospital admissions, while well below their highs in two years, are up 25 percent over the same period, according to the New York Times tracker. By Thursday, the state’s positivity rate had risen to nearly 8 percent.
The spike in cases, Governor Kathy Hochul said Friday, “is a reminder that the pandemic is not over and we need to be extra careful to protect ourselves and each other.”
Earlier this week, in an effort to contain the spread of the virus – especially with the upcoming winter and holiday seasons and many people planning to travel and spend more time indoors – in mind, Ms Hochul imposed a nationwide mandate that included that Wearing masks indoors in public in general requires rooms that do not require proof of full vaccination against the virus to enter.
As a prominent sign of the impact of the surge on life in New York City, producers of Radio City Music Hall’s all-time Christmas show with the Rockettes said late Friday that they are pulling out of this season’s run due to “increasing challenges from the pandemic.” would.
The announcement followed canceled performances of a number of Broadway shows and decisions by some New York colleges to cancel some activities or hold final exams remotely.
To curb the spread of the virus, Ms. Hochul also said state officials planned to change the definition of fully vaccinated to receive a booster dose.
“People who are certainly entitled, we want them to do it, but in terms of requirements we just have to make sure that we adapt to the required flexibility, but we will do it,” said the governor in an interview on CNN. She found that people who had recently been vaccinated were not eligible for a booster vaccination.
In New York City, the number of cases has doubled in the past few days from a week.
“That big leap that only happens when something big changes and the only big one that has changed citywide is Omicron,” said Dr. Denis Nash, Epidemiology Professor at the CUNY School of Public Health. However, there is little reliable and up-to-date data that shows what percentage of new cases in the city are caused by the variant.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has encouraged New Yorkers to get booster injections quickly.
“People have to get vaccinated right away, get this booster right away,” he said on Thursday. “If you’re not doing well, get tested right away. It’s an urgent situation. “
On Thursday, the mayor announced a plan to counter the surge in cases, including handing out a million free KN95 masks and 500,000 home tests, enforcing mask and vaccine regulations, and expanding the hours and capacity of testing on the city’s websites .
Lots of New Yorkers are rushing to get home test kits lately, with some stores selling out and the lines of people waiting at some test locations wrapped around pads. The Omicron variant has established itself throughout New York, including among those who have been vaccinated.
“Two of my friends who have been vaccinated – one who got a booster – caught Covid just last week,” said Gene Goldstein-Plesser, 32, as he waited to arrive at a city-operated location in the Fort Greene neighborhood Brooklyn to be tested Thursday. “I literally just got an email that a party I was going to this weekend was being canceled.”
Mr. Goldstein-Plesser said the hardest thing about the climb was “going back to that awful math, like, where are you willing to take risks? And where in your own life are you unwilling to take risks? “
The one-day case count announced on Friday may not be the highest in the pandemic, as a number of virus cases were not reported early on when the testing infrastructure was not fully in place. But it’s still clear that cases in the state have increased significantly.
The Omicron variant appears to be spreading equally quickly among vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Nowhere is that clearer than at Cornell University in Ithaca, where 99 percent of students on campus have been vaccinated against the virus.
Still, the number of cases in the student body has skyrocketed this week. In the seven-day period that ended Thursday there were 1,567 student cases from more than 26,000 students. The positivity rate was over 7 percent.
Only a fraction of the positive cases are analyzed to determine whether they are Delta, Omicron or some other variant. But Tompkins County, which includes Ithaca, has about 117 Omicron cases discovered, according to the governorate, more than any other county.
Cornell officials moved campus to Alert Level Red for the first time in the past three semesters after a surge in cases and implemented a number of security measures, including moving final exams online and canceling a degree in December. New York University, which has also seen a surge, canceled “non-essential” meetings this week.
Matt Stevens Reporting contributed.