The offices are canceling the holiday season. Broadway performances are closed due to major infections among the cast. College finals are moved online, and some colleges and universities are back to remote instruction after the winter holidays, at least for a while.
Coronavirus cases are on the rise again in New York, beyond anything seen since last winter, and across much of the United States, where the Delta variant remains by far the dominant version. The country reports an average of more than 120,000 new cases a day, according to a New York Times database, a 40% increase from two weeks ago and 70% more than when cases stopped to drop in early November.
While most unvaccinated people remain at much higher risk, a combination of factors – widespread transmission, decline in immunity, and circulation of highly infectious variants – has led to infections among those vaccinated.
Several new lab studies indicate that vaccines, and especially boosters, may offer substantial protection against the worst outcomes of the rapidly spreading variant of the Omicron coronavirus. Still, the new variant will infect many people who have been vaccinated or recovered from older versions of the virus, research shows.
The United States has crossed two milestones this week – 50 million known cases in total and 800,000 deaths in total – and experts say the addition of Omicron is likely to push the trajectory even further. The same is true for the holiday season, according to public health officials, as people travel and families gather indoors, where the virus most easily spreads.
Epidemics are increasing the most around the Great Lakes and in the northeast. Connecticut averages more than 2,600 new cases per day, up from about 330 in early November, and Rhode Island is adding cases at the highest rate in the country. Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have the highest hospitalization rates for coronavirus.
In some hard-hit states, federal medical workers have been dispatched to help exhausted hospital staff. About 68,000 coronavirus patients are hospitalized nationwide, a 21% increase from two weeks ago, but well below levels seen during the summer and the height of last winter .
Officials in the Biden administration are bracing for a potential wave of Omicron infections that could overwhelm the healthcare system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned that the percentage of coronavirus cases in the United States caused by Omicron has risen sharply and could point to an upsurge in infections as early as next month.
The administration is trying to encourage all eligible Americans – those 16 and over who received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago, or the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine at least six months ago. at least two months – to get a booster.
Across the country, cultural institutions and many ordinary Americans are reconsidering what is safe. The Metropolitan Opera said on Wednesday that starting next month, booster injections would be required for all eligible employees and members of the public. The NFL and NBA are discussing changes to their protocols in response to a wave of infections among players. Some Wall Street banks tell workers commuting to the office to stay home while on vacation.
Similar flare-ups and the accompanying crackdowns are occurring in many countries, especially in Europe. The French government on Thursday banned non-essential travel to and from Britain and tightened testing requirements for travelers, as a record increase in Omicron cases in Britain raised concerns that France was soon faced a similar tsunami of new infections.
As of Thursday, an average of 3,700 new cases per day were reported in New York, a level not seen since early April. New York State, which is reporting cases before the city, has shown the number of cases to skyrocket, with more than 18,000 new cases Thursday, including 8,300 in New York – levels never seen since the peak of the holidays last January.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the state would leave New Yorkers in areas with low vaccination rates and high cases to request home delivery of rapid tests, and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York announced a six-step plan to combat the surge, including more testing and enforcement of mask warrants.
Officially, the city’s surveillance system had detected the Omicron variant in only about 1% of the cases analyzed as of the week of December 4. But the CDC recently reported that in the region encompassing New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, about 13 percent of cases were Omicron.
âWe have seen a very substantial increase in Covid cases in recent days. It’s clear that the omicron variant is here in New York in full force, âMayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
Sarah Gancher, a teacher at the New School who lives in Queens, said eight of her friends who were fully vaccinated tested positive this week. The rate at which cases have increased has scared her, she said.
âThat’s literally all I thought about it,â Ms. Gancher said.
Sitting on a bench in Madison Square Park in Manhattan Thursday morning, she opened her bag to show the five home test kits she had just purchased. Several holiday celebrations she had planned to attend this weekend had been canceled, and although she had booked tickets to return to California to visit family, she said she did not. was more secure.
âI am very sorry and worried,â she said.
Ashley wong, Mitch smith and Joseph goldstein contributed reports.
An earlier version of this article contained a photo with an incorrect caption. The photo of a woman wearing a face shield in Union Square is from November 2020, not November 2021. The photo has been superseded.