NYC back to high COVID alert despite low death rates

New York City on Tuesday upped its COVID-19 risk alert to “high” as cases continued to climb but deaths and hospitalizations remained relatively low among a largely vaccinated population.

“New York City has transitioned to a high COVID alert level, meaning now is the time to double down on protecting ourselves and each other by making choices that can keep our friends, neighbors, relatives and coworkers from getting sick,” said city Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan.

The city on Friday reported a seven-day coronavirus positivity rate average of 9.1% — up from 6.28% recorded at the beginning of May and about 2.75% in early April.

But COVID-19 hospitalizations have decreased since the beginning of May — from a 72-person seven-day average on May 1 to 58 as of Friday, the most recent day for which city data is available. And at the end of last week, the health department reported a seven-day COVID-19 death average of four — down from five recorded on May 1 and nowhere near the rates being recorded a year ago.

In addition, many of those being diagnosed as positive in hospitals were admitted for other reasons. Statewide, of 2,497 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized, only 47.5% or 1,185 patients have COVID complications or illness, data shows.

On Friday, NYC reported a seven-day coronavirus positivity rate average of 9.1 percent,
NYC Health/City of New York
Hospitalizations.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have decreased since the beginning of May.
NYC Health/City of New York
Deaths.
Last week, the health department reported a seven-day COVID-19 death average of four.
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NYC Health/City of New York

More than 52%, or 1,312, who tested positive for COVID were admitted for other reasons, according to state Department of Health figures.

According to color-coded coronavirus alert level guidelines Mayor Eric Adams instituted in March, the new “high” classification means that the Health Department advises New Yorkers to “wear a face mask in all indoor public settings and crowded outdoor spaces,” to “limit gatherings to small numbers,” and “consider avoiding higher-risk activities” like large, indoor get-togethers.

The “recommended actions for government” column of the Health Department’s coronavirus criterion also includes imposing a mask mandate in public indoor settings.

Eric Adams.
“We’re not at a point of mandating masks,” Mayor Eric Adams reassured.
Gregory P. Mango

But Adams made it clear Monday that he does not want to bring back a face-covering requirement.

“We’re not at a point of mandating masks. We’re not at that point yet,” he told reporters during an unrelated press conference. “We’re not at the point of doing anything other than urging New Yorkers — while you’re indoors in large settings, social settings — wear your masks.”

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“We’re not overwhelmed,” the mayor added. “The number of cases in our hospitals are small. The number of deaths are small.”

Crowded ballroom.
The new “high” classification means that the Health Department advises New Yorkers to “wear a face mask in all indoor public settings.”
Mike Coppola/Getty Images for The Webby Awards
Tourists.
People in crowded outdoor spaces are also advised to wear face coverings.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Tuesday’s announcement comes one day after city officials revealed that the Big Apple would likely enter the “high” risk designation in the “coming days” as they provided information on distribution of at-home test kits and high-quality masks.

The announcement also comes two weeks after health officials raised the Big Apple’s alert level from “low” to “medium.” 

“As a city, we have the tools to blunt the impact of this wave, including distributing tests, masks and promoting treatments,” said Vasan Tuesday morning. “Getting back to Low Risk depends on everyone doing their part and if we follow guidance, our forecasts anticipate this wave’s peak will not last long.”

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