With the more transmissible BA.2 Omicron subvariant spreading, the lack of a truly proactive surveillance system, and many people being more lax about Covid-19 precautions, things can change in a New York minute. And now, surprise, surprise, New York City (NYC) is experiencing an uptick in Covid-19 cases. Over the past two weeks, the average number of new reported Covid-19 cases per day has gone up by 49% to 1,688, according to data from The New York Times. In fact, over that same time period, this number for all of New York state has increased by 61% to 4,238 with Covid-19-related hospitalizations edging up by 2%.
Also, on Sunday, Mayor Eric Adams tweeted that he has tested positive for Covid-19:
As you can see, Adams indicated that he’s been fully vaccinated and boosted against Covid-19. So far, 77.8% of NYC residents have been fully vaccinated. However, only 36.9% have been boosted. Getting fully vaccinated but not boosted can be like wearing very hole-ly underwear. It can offer you some protection against the Omicron variant of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), but protection could be less than 50%.
As Lisa Rozner reported for CBS New York, Adams is now isolating himself and has canceled all of his upcoming public events:
Another indicator that has reversed direction is the percentage Covid-19 tests that have come back positive. While over the past 28 days this percentage has been 2.99% for NYC over the past seven days, this had crept up to 3.30%, based on data from New York City (NYC) Health.
Take these numbers with an Ugg boot full of salt, though, because it’s not clear what percentage of people may be getting tested and how many people end up reporting their results. Plus, the number of new reported Covid-19 cases will not give you a sense of how much SARS-CoV-2 transmission is occurring right now, only what transmission may have happened a week to several weeks ago. That’s because it can take days, potentially up to two weeks, for a person to get tested after getting infected, assuming that he or she even does end up getting tested.
So far, Covid-19-related deaths have yet to follow suit and have been continuing their downward trend since February, decreasing by 14% in New York state over the same time period. However, hospitalizations and deaths will always lag new reported Covid-19 cases unless, of course, you have a time machine. It remains to been seen whether there will be an uptick in deaths in the coming weeks.
Tracking Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in this manner makes for a rather reactive surveillance system. A more proactive surveillance system would entail randomly testing people, including seemingly healthy ones, in all areas of the city and among all walks of life and recording such cases. Otherwise, it’s difficult to anticipate when another Covid-19 surge may occur. Covid-19 precautions such as face mask wearing and social distancing could potentially prevent another surge but only if they are maintained prior to the surge. Implementing such precautions after a surge is already occurring would be like suddenly realizing that you should be wearing clothes in the middle of a job interview or a date. The horse and other things may have already left the barn, so to speak.
Although the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has kept its Covid-19 alert level at “low,” maintaining Covid-19 precautions is especially important with the BA.2 spreading. This Omicron subvariant has become the alpha dog of the SARS-CoV-2, so to speak. From March 20 through March 26, around 85% of positive test samples that had undergone genomic sequencing have contained the BA.2 subvariant. This BA.2 subvariant is even more transmissible than the BA.1 subvariant which was more transmissible than previous versions of the SARS-CoV-2, as I have described previously for Forbes.
Will this latest uptick in New York lead to yet another Covid-19 surge? Or will the uptick only be momentary, a little longer than a New York minute but not too much longer? It’s hard to say. The U.K. and other countries in Europe have already been experiencing Covid-19 surges, although not nearly as bad as they did at the end of 2021. There are some factors in our favor, assuming that you aren’t ball-shaped with spikes. Unlike the situation in November, the weather is getting warmer and more humid which could potentially decrease transmission. A greater percentage of people have been either exposed to the Omicron variant or vaccinated or both since November.
On the flip side, people are taking fewer precautions with less face mask wearing and less social distancing. Moreover, immunity from previous exposures and vaccination may be waning. If another surge does occur, it probably won’t be as severe as the Winter surge or the Delta variant-fueled surge last Summer. Regardless, New York would be better off to be in more of a Covid-19 precaution state of mind than it is now.