Even with vaccine and mask mandates in place, COVID-19 is running rampant across New York City, with the city’s 7-day positivity rate doubling in just three days time, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Propelled by the proliferation of the highly-contagious Omicron variant and increased indoor activity amid the colder weather, the startling spike in infections is unprecedented, according to Dr. Jay Varma, senior health advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Um, we’ve never seen this before,” Varma tweeted Thursday morning, showing a Health Department graphic of testing data indicating that the citywide 7-day positivity rate jumped from 3.91% on Dec. 9 to an astonishing 7.3% on Dec. 12.
“This is #SARSCoV2 evading both vaccine & virus induced immunity *against infection* unlike any variant before,” Varma tweeted. “That’s [the] only explanation for dramatic jump in positivity. Consensus for now (but subject to change) is that immunity *against severe disease* should be far better.”
amNewYork Metro reached out to the Mayor’s office for comment, and is awaiting a response.
A deeper dive into the Health Department’s most recent data backs up Varma’s findings. The citywide transmission rate, which tracks community spread of COVID-19, has also increased significantly over the past week, from 198.72 cases per 100,000 residents as of Dec. 12 to 311.39 cases per 100,000 residents as of Dec. 16.
Staten Island has the highest transmission rate in the city at 441.88 cases per 100,000 residents, followed closely behind by Manhattan at 394.67 cases per 100,000 residents. Manhattan has the highest number of residents vaccinated against COVID-19 of any borough in the city, with 88% of all residents having received the first dose and 78% fully vaccinated.
While the Delta variant of COVID-19, a fast-spreading strain, remains the most dominant of all forms of the virus (making up 97% of all New York City cases tested as of Dec. 5), the Omicron variant is gathering momentum quickly, accounting for 3% of all cases less than two weeks after the first such case was detected in New York City.
Although COVID-19 cases have been steadily rising in recent weeks, the hospitalization and death rates have been much lower than feared — an indication of the success of vaccines and treatments in reducing the frequency of severe cases.
As of Dec. 13, the Health Department reported a 7-day average of 89 hospitalized COVID-19 patients and just 10 deaths from the virus.
The recent rise in COVID-19 cases had prompted greater mandates to ensure the public is vaccinated against the disease. Mayor de Blasio ordered that all private businesses require their employees to be vaccinated by no later than Dec. 27, and Governor Kathy Hochul instituted a new measure requiring masks in any indoor setting where vaccinations are not mandated. Health officials have also urged all who have previously received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to get a booster shot at least 6 months after receiving their second dose.
Despite the latest COVID-19 surge, and evidence that the virus causes more severe illness and death among the unvaccinated, anti-vaxxers continue to protest the mandates, believing their personal freedom trumps public safety measures.
On Tuesday night, it was reported, a group of them invaded The Cheesecake Factory at the Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst, Queens — the stunt prompting alarm among diners who provided proof of vaccination to enjoy their meal. Six protesters were arrested, according to Business Insider.