NEW YORK – Nearly 150 U.S. counties now meet the CDC threshold for a high-risk community-level COVID alert, marking a nearly three-fold increase in less than two weeks and a 79% increase since Monday , according to federal data on Friday; only one county out of 62 New York counties fit the health agency’s low-risk standard right now.
That county, some may be surprised to learn, is The Bronx, the New York City borough with the second-lowest complete vaccination rate of the five, behind only Brooklyn (74% vs. 72%), according to data from the city health department.
The Bronx, the 10th worst US county for COVID deaths and the 20th worst for cases since the start of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins, also has the lowest booster dose rate (29%) of the five boroughs. . Yet it has the lowest continuous infection rate in the city, and apparently in the entire state, and it’s not even close.
The Bronx has a rolling rate of new cases per 100,000 residents of 182.41 (up from 140.18 earlier in the week). It’s the only one of the five boroughs where that statistic is currently below 200, with Staten Island (389.17), Manhattan (377.29), Queens (328.41), and Brooklyn (282.86) rising above the city’s moving average (302.62). ).
Lower testing rates do not appear to be the reason that the Bronx is the only county in New York that the CDC considers to be at low risk for COVID. Mott Haven/Port Morris has the third highest average daily testing rate per 100,000 residents of all New York City ZIP codes right now, according to data from the health department.
Whatever the reason, the Bronx now stands alone, with the other three counties statewide deemed low risk by the CDC earlier in the week now being upgraded to high risk (Orange County) or medium risk (Chautauqua, Allegany County). ). However, based on the latest trends in New York City, that distinction may not last long.
New York state accounts for just over a third of the 137 US counties now designated high-risk by the CDC, which considers both new case rates and hospital admission rates in its daily assessment. Of the 14 medium-risk COVID boroughs in New York, two are in the city, Brooklyn and Queens, though COVID rates in all five boroughs have spiked pretty much across the board lately.
Nassau County has the higher new case rate of the two (65.1 per 100,000 residents vs. Suffolk County’s 52.8), but the former’s top executive insists a new COVID crisis is not emerging.
“Our hospitalization rate remains low, with the majority of those who become ill experiencing cold-like symptoms,” Nassau County Republican Executive Bruce Blakeman said in a statement Friday. “I urge anyone who has contracted the virus to stay home and contact their doctor if necessary. Nassau is back on track and we will continue to focus our efforts on helping residents recover from the social and financial burdens brought on by the pandemic.”
Steve Bellone, the Democratic Suffolk County Executive, took a different tone, saying in a statement that “COVID-19 is still here and we encourage all residents to take necessary precautions, including vaccination and boosting to protect themselves.” yourself, your loved ones and your community.”
Both Long Island counties are now among those on the CDC’s high-risk list. The vast majority of all counties on that list are in the tri-state area and New England, although there are pockets of higher risk in both Illinois and Montana.
The vast majority of CDC-designated high-risk counties are on the East Coast. That includes all but two of Connecticut’s eight counties (with two more added to that list this week) and nine of New Jersey’s 21 counties. In the Garden State, the only remaining county with a low-risk assessment is Cumberland, far to the south.
To be sure, COVID hospitalizations have not increased as much as cases in any of the three states in what appears to be this fifth wave of the pandemic. In New York, they topped 2,000 earlier this month for the first time since late February, and now number 2,331, more than doubling in the last month as highly contagious Omicron subvariants tighten their infection control in the state of New York and the country.
Fortunately, that total is still well below the 12,600-plus peak of omicron’s January surge. Experts say they don’t anticipate that kind of pressure on hospitals now.
At this time, there is no scientific evidence linking BA.2.12.1 to more severe COVID-related illness or reduced vaccine efficacy. That, officials say, is why the spikes in infection associated with the subvariants are cause for heightened vigilance, not panic.
Gov. Kathy Hochul recently tried to underscore that point as she recovers from her own bout with COVID-19, despite being fully vaccinated and double-boosted.
“Being fully vaccinated and keeping up with booster doses remains the most effective way to combat this virus,” the Democrat said in a statement Thursday. “As we mark the unthinkable milestone of one million American lives lost to COVID, let’s stay vigilant and continue to use the tools available to us: get vaccinated, get well, test often, and if you test positive, talk to your doctor about available vaccines. treatments. That’s how we move safely through the pandemic.”