A triple threat of infectious diseases — COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — are raising alarm bells in NYC as four of the five boroughs, including the Bronx, have seen a major jump in COVID cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks.
Over the last week, the Bronx has had 2,154 new reported cases of COVID-19, which does not include at-home positive tests, yet constitutes the highest weeklong total since July 11, when the Bronx had around 4,000 confirmed cases. Entering Wednesday, cases have skyrocketed in the Bronx’s northeastern peninsula City Island, where cases reached 33.3 per 100,000 residents, the eighth-highest total in the city.
The Mott Haven community scored the second-highest transmission rate in the borough, at around 31.4 cases per 100,000 residents. As of Dec. 3, the city’s median seven-day average for COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents is 23.3, with seven Bronx communities — the aforementioned City Island and Mott Haven, along with Co-op City, Allerton, West Farms, Concourse and Belmont — higher than the city’s average entering Wednesday.
The Bronx has also seen a gradual rise in COVID hospitalizations — a seven-day average of 271 COVID hospitalizations — which is the highest number of hospitalizations the borough has seen since July. The Bronx’s positivity rate jumped 9% in September to about 13% this past week, while Queens has seen almost a 16% increase over that same time span. Brooklyn and Staten Island are around 14% and 12% positivity rates, respectively.
In a call with reporters on Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, recommended the use of masks indoors and while on public transit to reduce the chances of catching or spreading a respiratory virus during the busy holiday season. Roughly 5% of the U.S. population lives in counties where the CDC is officially recommending masks due to high COVID levels.
“We also encourage you to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses,” said Walensky, adding that people living in areas with high levels of COVID transmission should especially consider masking.
Some Wednesday morning commuters seem to have heeded the advice of health experts.
“I have an immunocompromised son at home and we’ve taken all the shots and boosters, but I think we got a little too relaxed with masks and COVID, and this recent rise in cases reinforces the need to go back to the tools that initially brought down these cases,” said Abraham Rogers, a 35-year-old Manhattan office worker from Mott Haven.
Local health officials told the Bronx Times on Wednesday that the “good news” is that those who are vaccinated are feeling milder symptoms than the unvaccinated. Roughly 90% of Bronxites have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 77% have received at least two doses or a single Johnson & Johnson dose, but far less, just 29%, have received a booster shot.
The tridemic — also referred to as “tripledemic” — prompted Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday to urge the federal government to be at the ready to lend a hand with rising cases of RSV, which is characterized by respiratory symptoms. Walensky said the agency is considering expanding its system of COVID community levels to take into account other respiratory viruses such as the flu.
U.S. influenza cases are already setting decade-highs, as more than 8.7 million people have fallen ill, 78,000 have been hospitalized, and 4,500 people have died from the flu this season, according to CDC data. Fourteen children have also died from the flu this season.
Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.