By Robert Pozarycki
New York state’s COVID-19 rates continued to slightly decrease on Saturday even as another 172 people died of the illness, and a new case of the faster-spreading COVID-19 strain originally found in the UK was detected in Westchester County.
According to the Governor’s office, the state’s positivity rate on Jan. 16 was 5.61%, with 13,842 positive diagnoses reported out of 246,507 test results tallied that day. New York City’s rate was 5.69%, virtually unchanged from the previous two days (5.70% on Jan. 14, 5.66% on Jan. 15), but the city accounted for 5,751 (41.5%) of the new cases reported statewide Saturday.
Even with the curve appearing to flatten following a post-holiday surge, concerns remains about the spread of the more-infectious COVID-19 strain. Another case of it was found in Westchester County, the Governor’s office reported, the 18th case of the variant statewide.
New York state also saw 172 more deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday, including 44 in New York City. Eighteen of the 44 deaths occurred in Queens, followed by nine in Brooklyn, eight in Manhattan, six in Staten Island and three in the Bronx.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the strain could become the predominant version of COVID-19 in the U.S. by March — potentially overburdening healthcare systems that are already struggling to meet the demand of infected patients.
The CDC also recommended last week that all adults 65 and older, as well as those with compromised immune systems, be vaccinated as soon as possible. Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed, but cautioned that New York state presently isn’t getting enough vaccines to meet that mandate quickly.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for qualified individuals to get timely appointments through the city and state’s vaccine hubs, with the earliest available dates at some sites being in March or April. Moreover, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned Friday the city could run out of COVID-19 vaccines this week; the city is getting a portion of 250,000 vaccines allocated to New York state by the federal government each week.
On Sunday, Cuomo repeated his appeal from last week that President-elect Biden do something to boost the COVID-19 vaccine effort once he takes office this Wednesday at noon.
“New York has moved heaven and earth to create one of the most expansive vaccination networks in the nation and we are getting shots in arms as quickly and efficiently as possible — we just simply need more vaccine,” Cuomo said. “It’s time for the federal government to step up, increase the supply and actually help the state defeat this virus once and for all.”
Biden said on Friday that he would immediately seek a dramatic acceleration of the vaccination effort nationwide, including ordering greater production of vaccines and related supplies and dispatching a network of disaster relief workers and even retired doctors into duty to get shots into as many arms as possible.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Contagious Diseases, also said Sunday he believes Biden’s goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in 100 days is “doable” — particularly with the anticipated FDA emergency approval of two more COVID-19 vaccines being developed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.