In New England and the larger regions of New York and New Jersey, infection rates are approaching three-month highs. COVID-19-related hospitalizations are also on the rise, with daily admission levels more than doubling in the last month.
Overnight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upgraded its community risk levels, pushing many Northeastern counties, especially New York and Massachusetts, to the “high” alert level. The “high” community level suggests that there is a “high potential for stress in the health care system” and a “high level of serious illness,” and the CDC therefore recommends that people wear a mask in indoor public settings, including schools.
“If we were still using the CDC’s original COVID-19 risk rating, the northeast would be bright red, indicating uncontrolled community spread. This part of the country has some of the highest vaccination and booster rates. , but infections continue to rise, “said Dr. Maureen Miller, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told ABC News.
While Manhattan and the rest of New York City are still considered “medium” risk, transmission rates have risen nearly 33% in the past 10 days. Much of upstate New York is also painted orange for “high” risk.
Boston City, Suffolk County, as well as six other surrounding counties in Massachusetts, are also considered “high-risk” communities. In the Boston metropolitan area, wastewater levels are at an all-time high since early February, with residents between the ages of 20 and 29 reporting the highest number of infections.
In many areas of Vermont and Maine, community levels have also reached high or medium risk thresholds, 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 in the last week of the 50 states.
“I think the wave we’re seeing is real, and probably a lot bigger than we appreciate. Because most cases of COVID-19 aren’t being reported, because people are being tested at home or not, not m “It would be strange to know that the number of daily infections is higher than during the delta, perhaps even in the winter of 2020-21,” David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told ABC News. .
Health experts say the increases are due to a confluence of factors, including reduced masking requirements and other restrictions on COVID-19, as well as highly contagious omicron subvariants, especially 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 30% to 80% more transmissible than the original omicron strain.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that the latest version of omicron BA.2 and its descendants BA2.12.1 can evade the immunity developed as a result of an original omicron infection. Vaccination for those who were infected, even All with omicron, it is still highly recommended to prevent the serious results experienced mainly by the unvaccinated, “said Miller. “The big change in how this wave unfolds is human behavior. There is now a wealth of evidence that the use of masks helps curb the spread of COVID-19 … I wear a mask “Every time I go in, I go from the supermarket to the plane. Life can go on, but you have to be smart.”
Amid imminent questions about a possible return of masks and vaccine warrants, New York City Mayor Adams said Friday that officials are closely monitoring the increases, and reiterated that the city will be prepared to “pivot and change” if it is deemed necessary to reinstate mitigation measures.
“We can’t control what this virus does. But we can control our response and we’re doing it,” Adams said Friday during a press conference in front of the camera. “Yes, we are worried [about the numbers]. Yes, we are. But be prepared, don’t panic, be prepared, don’t panic. We are ready as a city and we will not panic. ”
When asked if the city would consider re-establishing its mask mandate for K-12 schools and proof of vaccination requirement, Adams insisted the city “is not there yet.”
“We will rotate and change like the pivots and turns of COVID. Every morning we meet, and based on this outcome of our meetings, we will make an announcement where we are going, if this remains at this level, We can pivot and change and we still do mandates, and we see an increase in hospitalization and deaths, that’s alarming, we can change. COVID pivots and changes, I’m going to turn and change, “Adams reiterated. “No matter what happens, we will make a determination after having our meetings in the morning.”
Adams praised the city’s high vaccination and reinforcement rates, as well as access to home tests, which he said help 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 surely return.
“Clearly, if we were to move to a high-risk, high-alert environment, we would seriously consider returning these mandates,” Vasan said on Tuesday.