COVID-19 surge: New York state hits record number of daily cases, more pop-up vaccine sites opening as Omicron variant spreads

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A man takes a COVID-19 test in Times Square on Dec. 16, 2021.
Photo by Dean Moses

New York City continues to see a vertical climb in infections and transmissions stemming from the COVID-19 surge fueled, in part, by the fast-moving Omicron variant.

The Empire State saw a record number of COVID-19 infections in a single day reported on Friday, with 21,027 people testing positive for the virus. Nearly half of the cases came from the Five Boroughs, 10,286 in total.

Data from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene continues to show rapid community spread of COVID-19 in the city. The citywide transmission rate, as of Dec. 18, stood at 384.74 new cases per 100,000 residents, with Manhattan’s transmission rate ballooning to 535.76 per 100,000 people, the highest of the five boroughs.

The daily positivity rate on Dec. 13 stood at 6.04%, down from 7.35% reported a day earlier. That number set off alarms after senior health advisor Dr. Jay Varma reported in a tweet that the COVID-19 positivity rate had doubled in three days between Dec. 10-12, an indication that the Omicron variant — a more infectious version of COVID-19 — is rapidly spreading across the city.

Varma’s analysis seemed to be confirmed by the World Health Organization, which reported Saturday that COVID-19 cases are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in areas with high community transmission of the Omicron variant.

“There are still limited data on the clinical severity of Omicron,” the WHO said. “More data are needed to understand the severity profile and how severity is impacted by vaccination and pre-existing immunity.”

With a week to go before Christmas, lines at COVID-19 test sites all across New York City continue to be very long days after Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to expand testing capacity amid the recent surge. 

Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are up, but not to an alarming degree as of yet. According to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the 7-day average number of hospitalizations was down to 94 as of Dec. 13. 

Health officials continue to urge New Yorkers to get vaccinated or, if they’ve already received both doses, a booster shot to help them fight off potential infection.

The Health Department notes that the latest COVID-19 surge is hitting unvaccinated New Yorkers the hardest. As of Dec. 4, the infection rate among unvaccinated New Yorkers stood at 804.46 per 100,000 residents; by contrast, the rate for vaccinated New Yorkers was 96.81 per 100,000.

New York City Health Department

With that in mind, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the opening of a number of new pop-up vaccine sites across the state, including in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens.

“The winter surge is in full force, but we are not defenseless. We have the tools to fight this virus and its variants: Get vaccinated, get the booster and wear a mask,” Hochul said. “We will continue working with local partners to make vaccines, boosters and testing widely available as soon possible so that all New Yorkers can protect themselves and their loved ones.”

The new pop-up vaccine sites in New York City are as follows:

Brooklyn (offering Pfizer vaccines for ages 12 and up, Pfizer boosters, Moderna vaccines for ages 18 and up, and Moderna boosters)

  • Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, 11 Sumpter St., Stuyvesant Heights. Open Saturday, Dec. 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Cornerstone Baptist Church, 574 Madison St., Bedford-Stuyvesant. Open Sunday, Dec. 19, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Family Services Network of New York, 1721 Pitkin Ave., Brownsville. Open Wednesday, Dec. 22, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Bronx (offering Pfizer vaccines for ages 12 and up, and Pfizer boosters)

  • Eugenio María de Hostos Community College, 500 Grand Concourse. Open Dec. 21, 23, 28 and 30, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (access limited only to students, faculty and staff)
  • Part of the Solution, 2759 Webster Ave. Open to all Thursday, Jan. 6, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Manhattan (offering Pfizer vaccines for ages 12 and up, and Pfizer boosters)

  • Mount Pleasant Christian Academy, 2009 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., Harlem. Open Sunday, Dec. 19, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Washington Heights Corner Project, 500 West 180th St. Open Tuesday, Dec. 21 and Dec. 28, from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • New York Harm Reduction Educators, 104 East 126th St., Suite 1A, East Harlem. Open Tuesday, Dec. 21 and Dec. 28, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Queens (offering Pfizer vaccines for ages 12 and up, Pfizer boosters, Moderna vaccines for ages 18 and up, and Moderna boosters)

  • Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Blvd., Kew Gardens. oOpen Saturday, Dec. 17, from 2 to 6 p.m.; and on Dec. 21, 23, 28 and 30, and Jan. 4 and 6, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.