Officials are preparing for the post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 spike that’s sure to happen as people travel for Thanksgiving and the temperatures get colder forcing people indoors. The city could be elevated to an orange zone and enact more restrictions.
This week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that in the coming week COVID-19 cases across the state could go as high as 12% in the state as evidence shows New Yorkers didn’t heed warnings to not travel or gather for Thanksgiving. Cuomo is also warning about other upcoming holidays where families gather.
“Let’s say that we have that current rate of increase, let’s say the holiday season only increases at 20%, which is the low end of what the experts suggest, so that holiday season the increase in activity only increases the current rate by 20%, look what happens,” Cuomo said. “New York State today we have 2.9% positivity; we go to 12% positivity. That’s a problem.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s seven-day rolling average is at 3.17%. He reiterated his call for New Yorkers not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday and other holidays so that COVID-19 cases don’t spike even higher.
“We want to remember that as we now approach the holidays, that, again, it will not be easy, but we’ve got to stay safe,” de Blasio said. “And I’m going to keep telling people, please, if you do not need to travel, don’t travel. Unless there’s a really, really crucial reason, don’t travel. It’s just going to only add more exposure to this disease, more chance that you might get it, your family might get, it might be brought back here inadvertently.”
COVID hotspots in the city include Washington Heights, which is seeing a 3.30% positivity rate and is now designated as a “yellow zone,” and Staten Island, where the positivity rate is as close to 6% in some neighborhoods and is designated as an “orange zone.” Cases in Staten Island have become so widespread that an emergency field hospital has reopened.
Schools remain closed after the city reached the 3% infection rate threshold. De Blasio announced that schools will reopen in phases similar to when they opened in the fall with elementary schools and special needs school opening first followed by middle and high schools.
Students will also have to be tested in order to go back to class. Parents will have to give consent for their children to be tested for COVID-19 monthly.
“We put a strong testing approach into place and the situation room to act quickly if anyone in the school community tested positive and, when necessary, to close the school,” de Blasio said. “That whole approach was working and working very well. We’re going to now build upon that, intensify it and make sure that there’s testing constantly.”
The city is under the threat of being designated as an “orange zone,” which could see major restrictions. Schools would stay closed along with gyms, hair salons and barber shops and personal care services. Gatherings would be limited to only 10 people.
As a COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon from several pharmaceutical companies, Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine opened a new COVID-19 vaccine unit in the Bronx. The unit will enroll people in clinical trials to test vaccines for efficacy.
More than half of all trial participants are adults most affected by COVID-19 with a focus on people older than 65. Participants will receive The AstraZeneca/University of Oxford vaccine randomly, placebo-controlled and double-blinded in which two people will get the vaccine for each person who receives a placebo injection. Two injections will be given during the first 29 days.
“Words cannot express my appreciation for the many people who worked so hard to establish the new COVID-19 vaccine unit, making sure underrepresented communities will have access to the most promising protection from COVID-19,” said Dr. Barry Zingman, who is leading the trials.