New York City has entered uncharted territory in the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the fast-spreading Omicron variant, with more than 10,000 people a day, on average, testing positive for the virus.
Worse, the latest city Health Department data indicates that 126 neighborhoods across the Five Boroughs have a 7-day COVID-19 positivity rate of 10% or higher between Dec. 14-20. Approximately 40 communities reported 500 or more new COVID-19 cases during that period, and four areas achieved 1,000 or more new infections.
COVID-19 is spreading across New York City at a faster rate than at any other point during the pandemic, including the deadly first wave between March-April 2020 that brought the city to a virtual standstill.
Yet the current situation is not nearly as grave as it was then.
Hospitalizations and deaths, while trending upward, are holding steadily lower, according to the latest data from the city’s Health Department. Omicron is causing numerous breakthrough infections among vaccinated New Yorkers, but the vast majority of these cases are proving to be mild because of the vaccines they previously received.
Nevertheless, the quick-moving Omicron variant — now the dominant COVID-19 strain in New York only four weeks after the first case was detected here, according to CDC estimates — helped drive daily infection rates beyond 10,000 per day last week. On Dec. 20 alone, 13,123 new COVID-19 cases were reported, and the 7-day average case total stood at 12,613.
The Dec. 20 caseload was more than twice the daily high reached during the first wave in March/April 2020 (5,916 cases on April 3, 2020) and represents about a 63% increase from the daily high achieved in the second wave in December 2020/January 2021 (8,004 cases reported on Jan. 4).
As of Sunday, Dec. 26, Mayor Bill de Blasio reported 14,591 new COVID-19 cases and 296 hospitalizations citywide.
Here’s a look at our #COVID19 indicators for Sunday:
• 13,095,173 vaccine doses administered
• 296 new hospitalizations
• 14,591 new cases
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) December 26, 2021
Transmission rates, which track the spread and movement of COVID-19, are off the charts. The 7-day transmission rate for New York City, the Health Department reported, is 1,059.07 case per 100,000 people. Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island all have transmission rates above 1,000 per 100,000.
Just two weeks earlier, the citywide transmission rate was at 192.8 per 100,000 people.
An apparent COVID-19 outbreak in the seaside hamlet of Breezy Point, Queens (ZIP code 11697), resulted in the community having the highest 7-day positivity rate between Dec. 14-20, at 18.61%, with 43 new infections reported there during the period.
Charleston/Prince’s Bay/Woodrow on Staten Island (10309) had the second-highest infection rate at 16.45%, with 335 new cases, followed by the Hudson Square/Meatpacking District/West Village in Manhattan (10014) which had a 16.4% positivity rate and 634 new infections.
Regarding the most new COVID-19 infections, East Williamsburg/Williamsburg, Brooklyn (11211) was tops again in the entire city, with 1,657 new cases reported between Dec. 14-20. The area’s 7-day positivity rate stood at 13.4%.
The three other areas with 1,000 or more new COVID-19 cases during the period are all in Manhattan: East Village/Gramercy/Greenwich Village (10003, 1,316 cases, 14.91% positivity rate); Chelsea (10011, 1,173 cases, 14.3%); and Kips Bay/Murray Hill (10016, 14.86%, 1,133 cases).
Despite the massive uptick in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations across the city are much lower than they might have been at times before the COVID-19 vaccine became available. As of Dec. 20, the city saw a daily hospitalization average in a 7-day period of 114.
By comparison, the city saw 442 people hospitalized for COVID-19 symptoms on Feb. 3, 2021, the highest daily total this year; and 1,781 people hospitalized on March 31, 2020, at the peak of the deadly first wave.
Deaths from COVID-19 are also far lower today than in previous waves during the pandemic. The 7-day average citywide daily death total stood at 14 on Dec. 20. By comparison, the city saw a year-high 93 deaths from COVID-19 on Jan. 27, and a horrific 816 COVID-19 deaths in one day on April 7, 2020.
But Omicron, Delta and the other variants of COVID-19 continue to particularly hit the unvaccinated population hard. As of Dec. 11, the city’s Health Department reported that the unvaccinated case rate stood at 758.5 per 100,000; the vaccinated case rate was just 127.49 per 100,000.
More unvaccinated New Yorkers are also winding up in the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms. The city reported that the unvaccinated hospitalization rate was 39.47 per 100,000, more than ten times the vaccinated hospitalization rate of 3.79 per 100,000.
Health experts continue to advise all New Yorkers to get both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and a booster shot to maximize their protection against the Omicron variant. They’re also encouraging all New Yorkers to get tested for COVID-19 ahead of gathering with friends and families throughout the holiday season.