Although COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates have risen steadily in the United States, nowhere have the increases been greater than in the Northeast.
In the New England and Greater New York and New Jersey areas, infection rates are approaching their highest levels in three months. Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are also increasing – with levels of daily admissions having more than doubled in the past month.
Overnight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their community risk levels, pushing many northeastern counties, particularly New York and Massachusetts, to the “high” alert level. The ‘high’ community level suggests there is a ‘high potential for strain on the healthcare system’ and a ‘high level of serious illness’, and therefore the CDC recommends that people wear a mask in public places. interiors, including schools.
“If we were still using the original CDC COVID-19 risk classification, the northeast would be bright red, indicating uncontrolled community spread. This part of the country has some of the highest vaccination and booster rates, yet infections continue to rise,” said Dr. Maureen Miller, professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington’s Mailman School of Public Health. Columbia, told ABC News.
Although Manhattan and the rest of New York City are still considered “medium” risk, transmission rates have increased nearly 33% in the past 10 days. Much of upstate New York is also now colored orange for “high” risk.
Suffolk County, home to the city of Boston, and six other surrounding counties in Massachusetts are also now considered “high” risk communities. In the greater Boston area, sewage levels are at their highest since early February, with residents ages 20 to 29 reporting the highest number of infections.
In many parts of Vermont and Maine, community levels have also reached the high or medium risk threshold, according to the data. And across the region, six northeastern states — Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey — have the highest number of new cases, per capita, over the past week, of the 50 States.
“I think the surge we’re seeing is real, and probably much bigger than we appreciate. Given that most COVID-19 cases go unreported – because people are testing at home or not at all – I would not be surprised to learn that the number of daily infections is now higher than during the delta, perhaps even the winter of 2020-21,” said David Dowdy, epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, at ABC News.
Health experts say the increases are driven by a confluence of factors including the easing of masking requirements and other COVID-19 restrictions, as well as highly contagious omicron subvariants including BA.1.12.1 . The subvariant is expected to account for about 36.5% of cases nationwide and 62% of infections in the New York-New Jersey region. BA.1.12.1 is estimated to be between 30% and 80% more transmissible than the original omicron strain.
“It becomes clear that the latest version of omicron BA.2 and its progeny BA2.12.1 can escape the immunity developed as a result of original omicron infection. Vaccination for those who have been infected – even by omicron — is still highly recommended to prevent serious consequences suffered primarily by the unvaccinated,” Miller said. “The game-changer in how this wave unfolds is human behavior. There is now a huge body of evidence that proves that wearing a mask helps slow the spread of COVID-19…I wear a mask every time I walk into an indoor public place, from a supermarket to an airplane. Life can go on, but you have to be smart about it.
Amid looming questions surrounding a potential return to mask and vaccine mandates, New York City Mayor Adams said Friday authorities were closely monitoring the increases, reiterating the city would be ready to “pivot and change” if reinstatement of mitigation measures was deemed necessary.
“We can’t control what this virus does. But we can control our response and we do,” Adams said Friday during a closed-door press conference. “Yes, we are worried [about the numbers]. Yes we are. But preparation, don’t panic, preparation, don’t panic. We are prepared like the city and we are not going to panic.”
When asked if the city would consider reinstating its mask mandate for K-12 schools and the requirement for proof of vaccinations, Adams insisted the city is “not there yet. “.
“We’re going to pivot and change like the pivots and changes of COVID. Every morning we meet, and based on that outcome of our meetings, we’ll make an announcement where we’re going to go, if it stays at that level, we we can pivot and change and keep doing warrants, and we’re seeing an increase in hospitalizations and deaths, it’s alarming, we can change. COVID is pivoting and changing, I’m going to pivot and change,” Adams reiterated. what’s going on, we’ll make a decision after our morning meetings.”
Adams praised the city’s high vaccination and recall rates, as well as access to home testing, which he said helps prevent a significant increase in hospitalizations and deaths.
Earlier this week, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan told CNBC that if infections and hospitalizations continue to rise, masking and vaccination requirements could certainly return.
“It is clear that if we entered a high-risk, high-alert environment, we would seriously consider bringing these warrants back,” Vasan said Tuesday.