Broadway shows close, restaurants shutter, parties cancelled: NYC grapples with Omicron as US braces for surge

New York City’s positivity rate doubled within three days this week, according to city health officials

New York Braces For Omicron Outbreak Ahead Of Holidays

Formerly the epicentre of Covid-19 at the onset of the pandemic, New York is once again seeing a spike in cases.

As the US enters a third year of the public health crisis, a winter surge of the Delta variant, and the emergence of faster-spreading Omicron, the state reported its highest single-day total on Friday with 21,027 new cases.

On Saturday, the state set another record with more than 21,900 reported daily cases.

New York City’s positivity rate doubled within three days this week, according to city health officials.

“It is clear that the Omicron variant is here in New York City in full force,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Health officials believe that rising infections are attributable primarily to the rise of Omicron, NYC’s Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said at the Thursday briefing.

The latest figures, which reflect positive test results from the previous day, reveal both an increase in test capacity and the fast spread of disease as officials ramp-up “booster” vaccine doses and public health restrictions.

Hospitalisations remain comparatively low. New York reported 3,839 people hospitalised with Covid on Friday, compared to more than 8,000 on 14 January, 2021, and nearly 19,000 people in April 2020.

The latest surge in cases “is a reminder that the pandemic is not over yet and we must take extra care to keep ourselves and each other safe,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Friday.

Governor Hochul reinstated a statewide mask mandate and ordered 40 new pop-up vaccination sites from this weekend.

Delta remains the dominant variant among confirmed infections in New York City. Omicron was found in 3 per cent of tests in the first week of December, rising from 1 per cent the previous week. Health officials project the variant may now account for 13 per cent of infections.

Across New York City, long lines wrapped around city blocks as people waited at urgent care clinics and Covid-19 testing sites. Additional public testing sites have been set up to keep up with demand.

Americans have reported shortages of at-home rapid tests at pharmacies as they scramble to make their holiday travel and party plans with family and friends, while the US has made test results central to its reopening, putting immense pressure on the nation’s testing capacity.

A screen announces cancellations of The Rockettes performance due to COVID-19 cases on December 17

At least a dozen restaurants in New York City and more than a dozen in Brooklyn have temporarily closed following staff exposures to Covid.

“It’s a bummer to limp into the holiday break on such a difficult week for everyone,” Di An Di chef Dennis Ngo told Gothamist.

After navigating closures and unpredictable pandemic business while adhering to shifting vaccine and mask requirements, “we really can’t catch a break,” Stephanie Gallardo of Love, Nelly told Eater.

After postponing last year’s “Christmas Spectacular” programme because of the pandemic, the famed Radio City Rockettes canceled the remainder of this season’s performances because of “increasing challenges from the pandemic”.

A performance of Moulin Rouge! The Musical on Broadway was canceled on 17 December because of a positive test among crew, and productions of Hamilton are canceled through 19 December “due to breakthrough Covid-19 cases.”

They are among seven of the 32 shows currently running on Broadway that have faced Covid hurdles in recent days.

Nine members of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team have entered the NBA’s “health and safety protocols”, which sideline players for 10 days or require two negative tests in a 24-hour period before they can return.

Saturday Night Live, which returned to in-studio performances last fall, announced that its 18 December programme will not include a live audience and will have only limited cast and crew.

In New York City, which has some of the most stringent public health measures, children aged 5 - 11 now need proof of vaccination for indoor activities. From 27 December, those aged 12 and older will be required to show proof of at least two vaccine doses for indoor activities. On the same date, most workers will need proof of at least one shot to show up to work.

New Yorkers have been required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status since late November.

More than 70 per cent of residents in New York state have completed their vaccine series - of two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In New York City, more than 71 per cent of residents are fully inoculated.

More than 203 million Americans – or roughly 60 per cent of the US – have received the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna or or one shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than 58 million people – about one in six Americans – have received a “booster” vaccine shot.

Omicron comprises roughly 3 per cent of cases nationwide, the CDC reported.

“In some areas of the country, estimates of Omicron are even higher, including in New York and New Jersey, where CDC projects that Omicron could represent just about 13 per cent of all cases,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said this week.

Federal health officials say the rapid spread of Omicron could result in a wave of infections hitting strained hospitals as soon as next month.

“In looking at early data on [the] transmissibility of Omicron from other countries, we expect to see the proportion of Omicron cases here in the United States continue to grow in the coming weeks,” Dr Walensky added.

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