second shot
A healthcare clinician prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for Covid-19 for a commuter during the opening of MTA's public vaccination program at the 179th Street subway station in the Queens borough of New York City, New York, U.S., May 12, 2021. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

New York continues to see an increase in infections and transmissions stemming from the Covid-19 surge fueled, in part, by the fast-moving Omicron variant.

The Empire State saw a record number of Covid-19 infections in a single day reported on Friday, with 21,027 people testing positive for the virus. Nearly half of the cases came from New York City: 10,286 in total. Nassau and Suffolk counties saw some of their highest single-day case counts as well, clocking in at more than 1,900 each.

“The winter surge in Covid-19 cases is a reminder that the pandemic is not over yet and we must take extra care to keep ourselves and each other safe,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “The vaccine is still our best weapon to defeat the virus and ensure we are safe from serious illness. Get the shot if you haven’t yet and the booster if you have, mask up, and wash your hands.” 

Hospitalizations for Covid-19 have jumped 45% nationwide over the last month, and confirmed cases have increased 40% to a weeklong average of 123,000 new U.S. infections a day, according to a Reuters tally. The U.S. states reporting the highest seven-day average of infections were New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan, Reuters reported.

The World Health Organization reported Saturday that Covid-19 cases are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in areas with high community transmission of the Omicron variant. The number of such confirmed cases on LI rose to 21 on Friday, with 15 in Suffolk and six in Nassau.

“There are still limited data on the clinical severity of Omicron,” the WHO said. “More data are needed to understand the severity profile and how severity is impacted by vaccination and pre-existing immunity.”

With Covid-19 cases surging, U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) sent a letter Friday to Hochul requesting the reopening of the Jones Beach and Stony Brook University mass testing sites and the opening of mobile testing sites to serve communities of color on Long Island.

“Pharmacies, urgent care centers, and other medical facilities on Long Island are overwhelmed with people looking for Covid-19 tests,” Rice wrote. “My office has received numerous reports from concerned constituents of packed waiting rooms, pharmacies sold out of rapid tests, and PCR test results taking five to seven days to return. Reinstating the mass state testing and opening mobile testing sites in communities of color on Long Island would provide immediate relief to the thousands of people seeking the care they are struggling to find right now.”

The Omicron variant appears to be far more transmissible than previous iterations of the virus, and more agile in evading immune defenses, according to early studies.

Public health officials say it is likely to become the dominant variant in the country, following fast-moving spreads in countries such as South Africa and the United Kingdom, and could strain hospitals still struggling to contain this summer’s Delta variant surge.

“GET BOOSTED NOW. Tidal wave of Omicron likely coming to a hospital near you soon,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), posted on Twitter.

Preliminary data in South Africa suggests Omicron leads to milder illness than the Delta variant, which is still driving much of the current wave of infections. But a British study released on Friday found no difference in severity between the two variants.

Either way, Omicron’s extraordinary level of infectiousness means it could cause many additional deaths, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Friday.

“When you have a larger number of people getting infected, the total amount of hospitalizations is going to be more. That’s just simple math,” Fauci told CNBC.

Fauci also said officials are discussing whether to redefine what it means to be “fully vaccinated” to include booster shots.

-With Timothy Bolger and Reuters

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