The number of cases in the New York school system has also been steadily increasing. The daily average of new cases reported last week in the public school system was 1,216, alarming some parents.
“The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority,” Department of Education spokeswoman Jenna Lyle said in a statement. “We will continue to follow the science and adjust as necessary, prioritizing the health and safety of our students and staff.”
Known cases are much lower than they were during the winter when the state was first hit by the highly contagious variant of the virus, Omicron, and cases in schools across the city have reached about 14,000 in January.
However, Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health, noted that testing is much lower than it once was. And widely used home tests are usually not reported. These two factors mean that the number of cases could be much higher than the official tally.
About 77% of people are fully vaccinated in the state, a figure that rises to 79% in New York. Covid-19 treatments available for certain at-risk populations may also reduce the number of severe cases and keep hospitalization rates relatively low.
“We have very good vaccine coverage and although the booster coverage has not been as good, it has been stable for some time,” Dr Nash said.
“I think we don’t know yet if we could absorb a large increase in transmission without seeing a substantial increase in hospitalizations and deaths,” he added.
If hospitalizations and deaths begin to rise rapidly, government officials should consider “some reinstatement of measures to protect New Yorkers,” Dr. Nash said.
Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.