Adams Calls for Universal Testing Mandate as NY State Hospitalizations Top 10K

The risk of NY breakthrough infections more than quintupled on a rolling basis in December, while the risk of such hospitalizations nearly doubled; unvaccinated NYers are still getting infected at more than 6x the rate of vaccinated ones and hospitalized at 14x the rate of unvaccinated ones

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What to Know

  • New York Gov. Kathy Hochul continues to push vaccinations and testing as the state battles its worst COVID-19 wave in a year; daily deaths hit triple digits Monday for 1st time since mass vaccinations
  • The risk of breakthrough infections more than quintupled in December while the risk of breakthrough hospitalizations nearly doubled; unvaccinated NYers are still getting infected and hospitalized at more than 6x and 14x the rate, respectively, of vaccinated ones
  • The omicron variant, the first local case of which was reported Dec. 2, accounted for 93.8% of genetically sequenced positive New York COVID samples uploaded to GISAID, over the last two weeks

New York City's new mayor kicked off his first full week on the job by pledging the five boroughs would power through this raging omicron wave, vowing to keep schools safely open and saying he'd like COVID testing mandatory for all students.

It's not clear if the city has authority to do the latter, Eric Adams said, or if Gov. Kathy Hochul would need to sign off on such a move.

The governor, who has equally vowed to keep schools safely open statewide through the duration of this academic year, has been funneling testing and other resources in force to city public schools amid the rapid spread of a variant that more than doubled the average new daily caseload in just the last week.

City hospitalizations are up 50% on a weekly rolling basis and account for more than half of the more than 10,000 COVID patients currently hospitalized across the state. That grim statewide total Hochul shared Tuesday is the highest since May 2020 and surpasses January 2021's peak surge level by more than 300 admissions.

Hochul indicated this will be a critical week in assessing whether more aggressive measures are needed to preserve hospital capacity amid an omicron surge that she doesn't expect to end until February and that she says has not yet even peaked.

"We're not in a good place. This is the winter surge that we predicted," she said Monday. "And we fully anticipate on top of the surge that's ongoing, there's going to be another wave that's occurring as a result of these holidays."

NBC New York's Jessica Cunnington and Anjali Hemphill report.

The data are almost hard to fathom. Roughly one in five New York tests are coming back positive these days, and that number is expected to bounce up Wednesday as lagging reporting data from the holiday weekend hits state databases.

Long Island has the highest rolling positivity rate as of the latest data, with nearly a quarter of all tests conducted in that region coming back positive, while more than one in five are coming back positive in New York City. Of the five boroughs, the Bronx has the highest positivity rate by state data at around 28%.

The omicron-fueled wave of infections, albeit milder than the more severe threat posed by the delta variant, is debilitating everything from Broadway's comeback to air travel and transit operations, crippling workforces with the sheer volume of people who need to isolate because of exposure risk or infection. Recent federal and state guidance easing the window from 10 days to five days means many workers can get back on the job faster, but a positive case still yields an absence.

Breakthrough COVID cases account for an increasing share of positives, though state data shows the unvaccinated are still at least six times as likely to be infected. They're 14 times as likely to be hospitalized with the virus, the latest statistics show.

In the city, the suspension of three subway lines over virus-related staff shortages continued this week and commuters reported waiting longer for trains and buses. One school in Brooklyn didn't open Monday due to what the principal said was staffing shortages. The city Department of Education website listed eight schools that were closed because of the virus out of about 1,700.

Right now, students make up the lion's share of confirmed positive cases in schools (60%), but the Department of Education hasn't updated its COVID dashboard since before the long holiday weekend. More insight on that front should come in days.

The major concerns of severe illnesses from COVID remain among the unvaccinated and immunocompromised individuals. Unvaccinated New Yorkers are being hospitalized at a rate of 30 per 100,000, while just 2.1 of every 100,000 vaccinated ones are experiencing symptoms that require hospitalizations.

Rates among children have soared in New York in recent weeks, especially in the city, prompting renewed pushes for parents to vaccinate their youngest eligible kids and get boosters for their older ones, now that the FDA has approved third doses of Pfizer for kids aged 12 to 15. It's not clear when 5-to-11-year-olds may be eligible.

New York's surging COVID rates are reflective of a national struggle to beat back a virus that much of the world was just starting to hear about this time two years ago. More than a handful of states are reporting record COVID caseloads on a near-daily basis and battling to protect already strained hospitals from further strain.

The United States set a new daily COVID case record Monday with more than a million new positives. Omicron, meanwhile, accounts for up to 97% of all current U.S. infections, according to CDC estimates updated Tuesday. That's up from a high of 74% in the previous weekly estimated by the federal health agency.

In the New York region, the CDC estimates omicron's prevalence could top 99%.

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