With COVID-19 numbers ‘astoundingly’ high, mayor supports U.K. travel ban

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Mayor Bill de Blasio
Photo by Dean Moses

Mayor Bill de Blasio described New York City COVID-19 numbers on Tuesday as “astoundingly high,” with the citywide infection rate inching toward 6%. 

De Blasio said the COVID-19 positivity rate for the five-boroughs based on a seven-day rolling average is now at 5.88% and reported 2,889 confirmed and probable new cases of the virus were tabulated Sunday. Since March, the city has released a series of coronavirus indicators all with a two-day lag.

In addition, out of the 193 New York City residents admitted to a hospital with suspected COVID-19 symptoms on Sunday, 66% tested positive for the virus.

“We have a complex situation here. The new case numbers are astoundingly high. I don’t like what I see one bit,” de Blasio told reporters. “I’m really worried.”

Officials’ concerns about the virus worsened recently after a new and more contagious and transmissible variant called B.1.1.7 of COVID-19 was identified by scientists in the United Kingdom, prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose stricter restrictions. The news also pushed over 40 countries in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, South America and the Middle East to ban flights from the U.K. 

B.1.1.7 has a large number of mutations, 23 in total according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which influence how the virus spreads. For example, a mutation to the new strain’s spike protein allows for the virus to better attach itself to cells. 

Over the weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government to test passengers on flights from the U.K for COVID-19 or institute a travel ban since cases of the variant have been detected outside the U.K in Denmark, Australia, Italy Belgium, the Netherlands and Iceland, according to Nextstrain, an open-source site tracking genetic codes of across the world.

Mayor de Blasio on Tuesday followed in the governor’s footsteps and said he also supported a travel ban and plans to speak with federal leaders on requiring all airlines to test all passengers from the United Kingdom for the virus before traveling. 

“I’m going to be talking to a variety of federal leaders to try and get it done, obviously we have not seen much reception from the Trump administration,” said de Blasio.” We’ll keep trying but if we can’t get it done now then we are certainly going to try and get it done under President Biden.” 

Delta, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic announced Monday that after speaking with the governor all travelers flying out of the U.K. to New York City will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed aboard an aircraft.