COVID CORNER | Parkchester among city’s biggest virus hot spots

Bronx residents line up in the Fordham area for at-home COVID tests in January.
Photo Adrian Childress
  • It was not a good week for the Bronx as 13 ZIP codes surpassed the city’s cases per 100,000 total.
  • Parkchester, Castle Hill, Allerton and Soundview are considered virus hot spots after totaling cases in the 300s.
  • Health officials are optimistic that the omicron surge may have peaked.

Thirteen Bronx ZIP codes saw seven-day COVID-19 metrics eclipse the city’s median total of 269 cases per 100,000 residents entering Tuesday, indicating that virus hot spots are increasing in the northernmost borough. In particular, the Parkchester 10462 section — which has more than 80% of its residents vaccinated — was the fifth-highest spreading ZIP code in the city with 355.6 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days.

Clusters of high-spreading areas have formed in the center of the borough as Parkchester, Allerton, Soundview and Castle Hill all had caseloads of 300 or more per 100,000. Additionally, the borough’s 38.9% positive rate now rivals positivity rates from the peak of the pandemic in March 2020, when the borough regularly cracked 40% or higher.

Fortunately, high vaccination rates in the area have minimized any harm that the late-winter COVID-19 surge could have had on those who contracted it. While COVID-19 infection rates surged by nearly seven times as much in December and breakthrough hospitalizations grew by four times, according to state data, the overwhelming burden of hospitalizations are falling on the unvaccinated.

According to NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, COVID spread among unvaccinated is 470.4 cases per 100,000, a total that dwarfs the 65.3 cases per 100,000 for those who are vaccinated. Hospitalization numbers also indicate a large share of unvaccinated virus carriers being hospitalized at a rate that is nearly 10 times higher.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing infection, meaning some who are fully vaccinated will still contract the virus — known as breakthrough cases. Individuals who are fully vaccinated and experience a breakthrough case, the nation’s top health body says, are less likely to develop serious illness than those who are unvaccinated and get COVID-19.

Additionally, the CDC updated its recommendation for when many people can get the BioNTech Pfizer COVID booster shot, shortening the time between inoculations from six months to five months. The booster wait times for those who received the Johnson & Johnson (two months) or the Moderna NIAID vaccines (six months), have not changed.

The CDC also recommends a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for moderately or severely immunocompromised children ages 5-11, 28 days after their second shot.

This recent surge in COVID cases has been attributed to the more vaccine-resistant omicron variant, but many officials are optimistic that the variant might have peaked in the early stages of 2022.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat running for a full term as governor this year, on Friday said that recent state health data  made her “hopeful” that “hospitalizations should start seeing the beginnings of a plateau.”

Citywide, the 7-day average positivity rate went down to 31% on Thursday, from a peak of 34% last week.

Read our previous COVID Corner update here.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.