COVID: NYC leaders prepare for omicron threat with new mandates

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A sign urges people to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the Staten Island Ferry terminal on Nov. 29 in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

COVID-19 cases are rising back up in New York City’s northernmost borough, as the Bronx averaged 206 new confirmed cases per day, a total that hasn’t been reached since the beginning of summer. However, increased vaccination efforts in the borough — 74.3% of Bronxites have received at least one dose while 64.2% are fully vaccinated — have managed to keep hospitalizations and deaths low.

The Bronx’s Dec. 4 case total of 349 confirmed cases, is its highest in two months. However, no Bronx ZIP code saw a transmission per 100,000 metric higher than 15 cases per 100,000 entering Monday; which is three higher than the state’s median average.

City Island’s 10464 ZIP code, which saw a caseload of 16.4 cases per 100,000 residents last week, saw numbers go down to 13.3 cases per 100,000 as of Monday, which is the highest total in the Bronx.

Over the weekend, multiple cases of the omicron variant were confirmed in New York City, and leaders are now hoping new mandates can combat the spread of the latest COVID-19 strain. On Dec. 4, three new cases of the highly transmissible omicron variant were detected in New York City, bringing the state’s total to eight, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced.

At least 17 states have detected the omicron coronavirus variant and that number is expected to rise, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on a media appearance Sunday.

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandate for all private employers in New York City, and the measure, which takes effect Dec. 27, he described as a “preemptive strike” to stall another wave of coronavirus cases and help reduce transmission during the winter months and holiday gatherings.

The mandate is expected to affect 184,000 businesses and could be subject to legal challenges in the coming weeks.

Additionally, patrons need to provide proof of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine rather than one dose, and kids ages 5-11, will have to show proof of one dose for indoor dining and other activities starting on Dec. 14.

Nearly 90% of adults in the city now have at least one dose of the vaccine.

COVID-19 trends citywide continue to increase, according to the New York City Health Department. The 7-day positivity rate was up to 2.81% as of Dec. 4., which is up from 2.75% last week. Hospitalizations are also increasing, with the citywide rate now up to 1 hospitalization for every 100,000 residents.

However, while omicron has been the talking point of the latest COVID-19 cycle, the delta variant that led to caseload increases over the summer months is still driving much of the emerging cases in the city.

More than 98% of all recently-tested COVID-19 positive cases involve the highly-infectious delta variant, which has been the predominant strain of COVID-19 in the Five Boroughs, according to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes. 

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