Although COVID-19 levels in New York state have been relatively low since the late spring, many officials and health experts have kept a watchful eye lately as the colder months and holiday gatherings have led to case increases over the last two years.
As of now, COVID-19 levels remain much lower than this point in 2021 and 2020, according to the latest data released Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Friday, only 11 counties in New York are classified by the CDC as having “high” COVID-19 levels. They make up all of New York City and Long Island; Westchester and Rockland counties in the Hudson Valley; and Broome and Tioga counties in the Southern Tier.
The CDC uses a "high," "medium" and "low" classification, which is determined by the number of new cases in the county per 100,000 people in the past seven days; the number of new hospital admissions with COVID-19 in the past seven days per 100,000 people; and the percentage of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with COVID-19 within a seven-day average.
Parts of Western New York and the upper Hudson Valley have “medium” levels while Central New York, the North Country and Capital Region all have “low” levels.
State data released Thursday by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office shows the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people stands at 27.01, which is up from last week, but lower than it was in June.
It’s quite the contrast from a year ago this week when Hochul reinstated a mask order for indoor businesses as the omicron variant surge began to cause case-counts to smash records not seen since the pandemic began.
A year later, with no restrictions in place, family gatherings and holiday social events are on track to be the most normal since 2019.
"We're going to embrace the holidays, but not let our guard down,” Hochul said at a news conference earlier this week.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, who is leaving office on Jan. 1, acknowledged on Wednesday that “people are tired of being told what to do” and that “we can’t legislate people’s behavior.”
This comes as other health urgencies, like the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, are taking up attention of health officials.
“I’ve been an advocate of living our lives, living alongside these viruses, because that’s really our only option at this point, since the start of this thing,” Dr. Neal Smoller, a holistic pharmacist and owner of Village Apothecary in the Hudson Valley, told Spectrum News 1 Thursday.
- SEE ALSO | 'Let's Socialize': Trio of illnesses shouldn't prevent holiday gatherings after two tough years
Another sign of the times is as of Friday, Rockland County, one of the first epicenters in the state in March 2020, is shutting down their COVID-19 dashboard on their county website.
“As we approach 2023, there is significantly less case and risk of severe illness thanks to the wide availability of coronavirus vaccines and treatments, allowing the County to retire this dashboard,” the county said in a press release.