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New York Experiences Surge of Covid Cases

NYC Covid lines resemble the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Credit: Raimond Spekking, CC BY-SA 4.0

Omicron has officially taken over New York City. New positive case reports in New York State have surged by almost 60% in the last two weeks, right around the time the Omicron variant was first traced in the United States.

“It is clear that the Omicron variant is here in New York City in full force,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday.

18,276 new cases were reported in New York State on Thursday, with 8,300 of them in New York City. This is the highest infections have been in the U.S.’s most populated city since January of 2021.

“It’s scary — it feels like we’ve been here before,” said Emma Clippinger, who was in line for a Covid test in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, to the New York Times. “It feels like last year, last winter, despite the vaccines and despite the boosters, and it’s the same game plan, but it also feels like we get defeated often.”

An average of over 10,600 infections are being reported every day in New York State, a figure that currently leads the country. Test lines in New York City almost always snake around the block, and receiving a PCR or Rapid test could take hours.

The surge in NYC seems to anticipate a coming wave that could find the Omicron variant becoming the dominant variant in the United States quickly, as has been predicted in other countries around the world.

Omicron is Milder but Better at Evading Vaccines

A preliminary study published on Tuesday indicates that Omicron causes milder disease but is more equipped to evade the protection of vaccines.

The study, which was conducted in South Africa by a private health insurance company, found that patients who tested positive for the omicron variant were hospitalized less often than patients who had other versions of Covid-19.

Although the study is only based on three weeks of data, it clearly indicates that vaccines are less capable of preventing breakthrough infections. Epidemiologists have stressed that waiting a few more weeks will provide a much stronger data pool, as Omicron has not become fully dominant yet and only a fraction of people with the variant have become sick enough to be hospitalized.

It is also possible that Omicron infections present milder symptoms due to immunity from prior infections or from vaccination. The mean age of the participants in the study was 34, and younger people often experience mild illness from Covid, which may mask how dangerous Omicron actually is to those at higher risk.

Nevertheless, the study found that the fourth wave of Coivd infections in South Africa–driven by Omicron– resulted in dramatically fewer hospitalizations than the first three waves: Omicron had 38 hospital admissions per 1,000 infections, Delta had 101 per 1,000, and Beta had 131 per 1,000.

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