As yet another COVID-19 variant sweeps through New York City, pushing infection rates upwards to levels not seen since January, the city continues to grapple with its public health strategy.
“We are somewhere in between an emergency and endemicity — endemicity meaning it’s just a seasonal virus,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan told “Mornings on 1” anchor Pat Kiernan Thursday. “I don’t know where we are in that transition, but we are not in the emergency phase of this pandemic.”
Vasan mentioned several factors that he said made this period of the pandemic different from in the past.
“We’ve had over 18 million doses of vaccine given out to New Yorkers. It’s because we have 35 million tests distributed across the city. It’s because we’ve got novel treatments, which this city is leading the country in getting out to the public,” Vasan said.
“All of these tools are the things we wish desperately we would have had in March 2020 in those tragic early days, and so I’m thankful we’re at a different point,” he added.
As of July 10, the city’s seven-day COVID infection rate stood at 15.09%, nearly four times higher than it was at this time in April, health department data shows.
The highly contagious BA.5 omicron subvariant accounted for 65% of COVID-19 infections in the United States as of July 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Citywide COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, however, were still trending downward as of July 10, according to city data.
When asked whether he would support a push by the mayor or governor to implement another round of mask mandates to mitigate the latest surge, Vasan said the city has options to deter the virus it didn’t have before.
With that said, Vasan encouraged New Yorkers to follow the city’s and CDC’s health guidelines: wear a high-grade mask in public settings indoors, get a COVID vaccine booster shot if you have not done so already and continue to test for the virus frequently.
In the beginning of July, the city phased out its COVID-19 alert system, which had deemed the five boroughs at either "low," "medium," "high" or "very high" risk level based on their latest COVID-19 statistics.
Mayor Eric Adams called it an “old weapon” ill-equipped to combat the recent wave of new variants. Adams first unveiled the color-coded system in March, following a winter spike in cases fueled by omicron.