COVID positivity rates in New York City have crept back up to late-January levels, as top doctors warn the city may be on the verge of a sixth wave of COVID-19 driven by the
"worst version" of the omicron variant yet.
The city's rolling seven-day average positivity rate hit 9.94% Tuesday, the highest level since Jan. 24, according to data posted by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
To be sure, the number of people actually getting tested is at multi-month lows, skewing the positivity rate. But citywide transmission rates are up about 6% in just the last week, pointing to a legitimate increase in the spread of the virus.
In some parts of Manhattan, positivity rates are nearly 17% now, while they top 20% in eastern parts of Queens.
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Dr. Jay Varma, a Weill Cornell epidemiologist and formerly Mayor Bill de Blasio's top public health advisor during the pandemic, said infections appear to have stabilized at a high level in the city, rather than dropping.
"The decline of reported #COVID19 cases in NYC has stopped. Reported cases are at a high plateau, which means actual transmission is very high when you account for the >20x under-counting. This is likely the beginning of a BA.5 wave," Varma tweeted.
The BA.5 subvariant of the omicron variant of COVID-19 is raising concerns around the world because it escapes immunity more easily and transmits more readily as well. Researcher Eric Topol, in a widely quoted post this week, called BA.5 the "worst version" of omicron yet seen.
NYS COVID Data
Statewide, COVID numbers are edging higher as well.
After a steady decline for more than a month, hospitalizations surged back above 2,000 in the latest data reported Tuesday. While it's a small fraction of the nearly 13,000 who were hospitalized in mid-January, it's still an abrupt increase.
The worst trend is among the youngest victims - the hospitalization rate among kids under age 1 is up about 25% in just the last week.