Surge in Virus Cases Puts Most of New York State on High Alert
New coronavirus cases surged in most counties in New York State this week, putting them on “high” alert under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and triggering recommendations for indoor masking, including inside schools.
The state refrained from imposing an indoor mask mandate, but health officials on Friday afternoon did urge residents living in counties that have been placed on “medium” or “high” alert to wear masks in indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.
“These public health measures, as well as ensuring proper air ventilation when gathering, will help reduce Covid-19 transmission in communities and lower the risk of serious illness and hospitalization for individuals,” the state health commissioner, Dr. Mary T. Bassett, said in a statement.
As of Thursday, the average of new cases stood at more than 10,000 a day, according to a New York Times database. New cases have increased 47 percent over the past two weeks, and hospitalizations have increased 28 percent over that time period, to an average of more than 2,600 a day.
As of Thursday, the seven-day average of daily deaths stood at 20, up from 15 two weeks ago, according to the Times database.
New York City was one of the few places in the state where transmission rates have not risen high enough to trigger a higher alert level, according to the C.D.C.’s data. But new virus cases have increased 82 percent in New York City over the past 14 days, with the daily average standing at over 4,300, according to the Times database. Hospitalizations have increased 30 percent in the city over the same time period, to a daily average of 835.
Mayor Adams, who has focused on rolling back a number of pandemic policies in an effort to reopen the city, called the rise a “slow uptick.”
“Our hospitals and deaths — those numbers are really at a solid place,” he said at a news conference on Friday. “We’re going to be prepared and not panicked.”
Case counts in New York City’s school system have moved steadily upward, too. The daily average of new cases reported last week in the public school system was 1,216, raising alarm among some parents.
“The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority,” Jenna Lyle, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said in a statement. “We will continue to follow the science and adjust if needed, putting the health and safety of our students and staff first.”
Known cases are far lower than they were during the winter, when the state was first struck by the highly contagious variant of the virus, Omicron, and cases in city schools reached around 14,000 in January.
However, Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health, noted that testing is much lower than it once was. And widely used home tests are not usually reported. Both factors mean that case numbers could be much higher than the official counts.
About 77 percent of people are fully vaccinated in the state, a figure that rises to 79 percent in New York City. Covid-19 treatments available to certain at-risk populations may also be reducing the number of serious cases and keeping hospitalization rates relatively low.
“We have very good vaccination coverage and, although booster coverage hasn’t been so great, it’s been stable for a while,” said Dr. Nash.
“I think that we don’t yet know if we could absorb a big surge in transmission without seeing a substantial increase in hospitalizations and deaths,” he added.
If hospitalizations and deaths begin to rise quickly, government officials should consider “some reinstatement of measures to protect New Yorkers,” Dr. Nash said.
Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.