New York COVID community levels have plummeted

For the first time since mid-April, New York state’s COVID-19 community levels recorded their first significant decline, particularly in central New York, which once led the state and nation to a post-omicron spring surge, new data said Friday published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Friday, 32 of the state’s 62 counties are classified by the CDC as “high” in the community with the coronavirus. That’s down from 54 last week.

The CDC uses a “high,” “medium,” and “low” classification determined by the number of new cases in the county per 100,000 population over the past seven days; the number of new hospital admissions with COVID-19 in the last seven days per 100,000 people; and the percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied by patients with COVID-19 over a seven-day average.

At a “high” level, the CDC recommends wearing masks in indoor public areas and on public transportation. There is currently no local mask requirement in these areas, aside from nationwide mask requirements in bus and train stations, prisons, state-regulated care facilities and homeless shelters.

A week ago, there was only one county in the state that was rated “low.” Now there are nine, primarily those in central New York — Onondaga, Cayuga, Oswego, Madison and Cortland — the region which has been at “high” levels for a month and a half and was once among the few counties across the country at that level . The region was the first in New York to have confirmed COVID-19 cases caused by the BA.2 omicron subvariant known as BA.2.12, state officials said at the time.

Additionally, many counties were downgraded from high to medium in the last week, from those in the Finger Lakes region to parts of the North Country and outer capital region. All of New York City remains in the high category.

Nationwide, there are 250 counties with “high” levels of COVID-19, according to the CDC, compared to 297 a week ago, also the first time that number has declined this spring. However, the vast majority of “high” counties remain in the Northeast.

According to state data released Thursday by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office, the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the state was 42.81, up from 48.99 a week ago. In recent weeks, health officials in New York and other states have begun using cases per 100,000 people, rather than the more traditional positive percentage of those tested, as a more accurate way of measuring infection rates.

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