The recent wave of COVID-19 that has swept through the tri-state in recent weeks appears to be ebbing according to the CDC’s latest update, just as the wildly contagious strain that has been rampant in New York for weeks asserts national dominance.
The number of U.S. counties at high risk of community spread of COVID fell to 250 in the CDC’s Friday update, down 16% from the 297 with that distinction last week. At that time, 54 of New York State’s 62 counties — or 87% of the total — met the CDC threshold for having a high risk of spreading the COVID community, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. counties that had the same designation.
The situation has changed as the number of counties in New York that meet this standard has dropped to a third of the total (30). The state added more greenery, which the CDC said has posed a low risk of spreading COVID in the community since last week, when Orange County was New York’s sole representative in that category.
Orange County retains that distinction as of Friday’s report, which adds an additional eight counties to the low-risk category. However, all five New York City boroughs still fall into the high-risk CDC category. City health officials raised the COVID alert level to high last week, in accordance with CDC guidelines, which their own system follows.
Under this system, the current COVID alert means that masks are recommended for everyone indoors, regardless of vaccination status, but no new mandate applies.
New York City’s COVID core data has continued to rise since transitioning from state of alert, with the new hospitalization rate now at 12.4 per 100,000 people and the rolling new case rate at 348.58 cases per 100,000 people. The CDC (and NYC) high-risk thresholds require both rates to reach 10 and 200, respectively.
Although the city’s hospitalization rate is still increasing, the ongoing case rate appears to have stabilized. This means that admissions, whose delay in cases is increasing, should level off and decrease in a short period of time. The mortality rate has not increased significantly and is unlikely to increase as vaccination and booster shots can prevent serious COVID-related illnesses despite the risk of re-infection and breakthrough cases.
New York City was hit by BA.2.12.1 later than other regions in the Empire State, but health officials said, while increasing the threat level, they expected the current BA.2.12.1-driven wave to end in a few weeks, if not sooner.
The BA.2 strain subvariant, first descended from omicron, is considered to be the most contagious COVID strain to date and has been locally dominant since late April. It made up the majority of national cases for the first time this week, but has been spreading much faster in parts of New York than elsewhere for some time.
New Jersey and Connecticut, which have also seen cases associated with the rise in subvariants, are still struggling with high infection rates. No state has a county at the CDC’s low-risk level. Half of the Garden State (10 of 21 counties) and all but one of Connecticut’s eight counties remained at high COVID community risk as of Friday.
Still, these neighboring states may not have to wait much longer for improvements.
The latest COVID data supports recent statements from the Office of Governor Kathy Hochul, which indicate that the first regions to experience increased prevalence associated with the omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 were Central New York and the Finger Lakes, have continued to decline. Cases are also down in all regions compared to last week.
In her latest COVID update, Hochul said the nationwide seven-day average case rate is at its lowest since May 8 and has seen a nine-day decline.
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Hospital admissions remain at their highest since late February, with Hochul reporting 2,518 admissions nationwide as of Thursday, but 58.1% of those patients did not report COVID as a reason for admission, suggesting mild cases that may not even were diagnosed, patients had not asked for help for another problem.
To date, there is no scientific evidence linking BA.2.12.1 to more severe COVID-related illness or reduced vaccine effectiveness at this time, and while the increased transmissibility seems clear, experts and medical researchers believe that preventative efforts, particularly related to vaccinations, cases that do not require treatment should be overwhelmingly mild.
That means taking advantage of every free option available to New Yorkers, including the city’s free online diagnostic tool, COVID testing kits and care packages, in addition to key prevention strategies like masks to stem the tide.
“As we prepare for Memorial Day weekend and as we prepare to travel and meet with loved ones, I encourage everyone to continue to use the tools at our disposal to protect against and treat COVID-19.” , Hochul said in her latest update.
“The best way to avoid serious illness from COVID-19 is to keep up to date with your vaccination and booster doses,” the Democrat added. “Testing can help stop the spread to our vulnerable loved ones, so let’s keep using this important tool. If you test positive, talk to your doctor about treatments. Let’s continue to look out for each one as we work to get through this pandemic safely.”