The first U.S. omicron case was reported on Dec. 1. It took the heavily mutated variant less than three weeks to establish its dominance in America — and nowhere is its unprecedented infectiousness more evident than in the New York area.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday a “staggering” nearly 11,000 new COVID cases across the five boroughs. He said the daily rate would likely continue to rise for the next few weeks, at least, as the new variant sweeps the region. The numbers from the state (17,221) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (20,454) were even more stunning, as both figures would have NYC representing nearly a tenth of all cases nationwide from Tuesday.
The CDC estimates more than 90% of current cases in the metro area — one that for its genomic surveillance purposes includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands — are associated with omicron. That’s up from 25% last week.
The agency has said New York and New Jersey were detecting omicron at four times the national average rate. The Garden State’s latest numbers show a similar pattern, spiking 42% in a day as cities rush to impose mask rules and shut schools.
Delta, which for months exerted near-total dominance on New York area cases, is now believed to account for less than 8% of new infections, according to CDC data. And while that remains New York’s prime variant of concern as far as its impact on hospitalizations, the sheer pace of omicron’s spread has stunned health experts.
“Intense surge, limited impact,” de Blasio said regarding the severity of omicron cases thus far. “That does not suggest doing the same things we did last year. That suggests a different game plan. Vaccination is the game-changer.”
President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals Dr. Mitchell Katz sought to drive home the point when asked to reconcile the perceived “hysteria” over the sheer surge in new cases with officials’ continued assurances of calm.
“What you’re seeing as a mixed message is how people respond to the transparency of the data,” Katz told the reporter who asked the question. “What the data show is cases are astronomically increasing, no question. Cases themselves, we’ve never seen as high levels. Very sick people? No.”
Katz said his 11 H + H hospitals have 54 COVID patients in the ICU at this point. That’s down from 970 at the latest peak this past March. It’s only 34 patients higher than the lowest number (20) his network experienced over the course of the pandemic. Katz said that should add some perspective to the numbers, and shed more light around his own previously professed concerns about the omicron surge.
“It’s not because I’m worried about a deluge of sick patients,” Katz explained. “What I’m worried about is a large number of my staff exposed to omicron and then on 10-day isolation. That’s the staffing problem that I’m worried about.”
“We continue to see mild disease,” he added, though noted the question of whether unvaccinated hospitalized patients with omicron have more severe experiences than vaccinated hospitalized patients with omicron requires further study.
New York City’s variant reporting data hasn’t had a chance to catch up to the spread. It still lists omicron as accounting for 1% of tested COVID samples in the five boroughs, though acknowledges that its data “does not yet reflect the spread.”
The five boroughs’ rolling daily case average is up more than 141% over the rolling average for the prior four weeks, while hospitalizations are stable by the same metric after a marginal increase earlier this month.
Statewide, Gov. Kathy Hochul reported record-breaking daily COVID cases for four straight days before the number fell a bit Tuesday (22,258). Hospitalizations, though, topped 4,300, the highest total since April 7 and a 125% jump since Nov. 1.
Both de Blasio and Hochul have sought to assuage public concerns ahead of the holidays. Both assure New Yorkers the current climate is nothing like March 2020 or even December 2020, that vaccinations remain the most effective tool to beating back COVID, including the omicron strain. Both have said multiple times this week there will be no shutdowns.
De Blasio warned New Yorkers a few days ago that the omicron case surge will likely only get worse before it gets better, though the surge is expected to be far milder and far less lengthy than delta’s earlier this year. Much of this expectation depends on people getting vaccinated and especially getting boosted, he says.
The Democrat launched a booster incentive program on Tuesday that awards $100 to anyone who gets a booster dose at a city-run or SOMOS partner site by Dec. 31.
Long lines at testing sites have been a bigger issue than vaccine lines lately. De Blasio announced another seven would open this week on top of the 23 already pledged, bringing the city’s testing options up closer to 120 amid the demand.
Five new city mobile sites launching on Thursday will supplement the effort by handing out free at-home tests for New Yorkers. The locations of the trucks weren’t immediately released, but the mayor said they’d be throughout the city.
“We know the COVID era will end, hopefully as early as 2022,” de Blasio said Wednesday. “If we do the right thing, if we get vaccinated, we know the COVID era will end. We have powerful tools and we know the COVID era will end.”
De Blasio’s triumphant talk of recovery has been harder to swallow for some New Yorkers, as the one-time pandemic epicenter reels from this latest case onslaught and breakthrough infections shake Broadway to its core. Although this omicron outbreak is expected to be mild in terms of infection severity, it has renewed questions around holiday gatherings, especially when it comes to New Year’s Eve.
De Blasio had said tens of thousands of fully vaccinated people could return in person to Times Square this year. That was just a few weeks ago. The mayor says his team is still in discussions about have to make it safer. He has pledged to announce a decision on the end-of-year bash before Friday.
While much is still to learn about omicron — and what could come next — de Blasio has said research shows it is most certainly more transmissible than any previous strain and likely more vaccine-resistant, but that vaccinations are still effective.
That appears most true when it comes to preventing severe illness from omicron. Mounting evidence shows two vaccine doses have plunging efficacy against the newest variant of concern. Boosters provide even more protection, Pfizer and Moderna have said their data shows. And any doses of the three main COVID vaccines provide more protection than no doses at all, the CDC director has said.
While about 1% of all New York residents have tested positive in the last 10 days, Hochul, de Blasio and leading national experts continue to drive home those points.
Indoor mask rules, vaccine mandates and other protective measures have been re-implemented to slow the spread, and New York’s leaders ask their pandemic-weary people to ride out this wave a bit longer.
“Cases are rising due to the winter surge, but this is not March 2020 – we knew this was coming and New York is taking action to make vaccines, boosters, and testing more widely available,” Hochul said in a statement Tuesday.
“We know what works – get vaccinated, get the booster, mask up, and exercise caution in indoor public spaces,” she added. “Now is the time for all of us to do our part and help protect those more vulnerable to make sure we all get through this holiday season safely.”
The Rise of Online Businesses: A Comprehensive Guide to Success
In a world increasingly connected through the internet, the possibilities for starting and growing online businesses have expanded exponentially. Whether you’re looking to escape the traditional nine-to-five grind, want to tap into a global market, or are simply passionate about a niche interest, launching an online business is a promising venture. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key steps to success in the dynamic world of online entrepreneurship.
1. Choose Your Niche
The first crucial step in starting an online business is selecting the right niche. Identify your passions, expertise, and market demand. Research the competition and look for gaps that your business can fill. A well-defined niche will help you target the right audience and stand out in the crowded online marketplace.
2. Develop a Business Plan
Just like traditional businesses, online ventures require a solid business plan. Your plan should outline your business goals, strategies, financial projections, and marketing tactics. It’s a roadmap that will keep you focused and serve as a valuable reference point as your business grows.
3. Legal Structure and Registration
Choose a legal structure for your online business, such as a sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation. Register your business with the necessary authorities and obtain any required licenses or permits. This step is vital to ensure your business operates legally and efficiently.
4. Website Development
Your website is the heart of your online business. Create a professional, user-friendly website that reflects your brand and offers a seamless customer experience browse around this site. Ensure your site is mobile-responsive and optimized for search engines (SEO) to maximize your online visibility.
5. Branding and Identity
Build a strong brand identity that differentiates your online business. This includes designing a captivating logo, crafting a unique value proposition, and maintaining a consistent visual style and tone across all your online platforms.
6. E-Commerce and Payment Solutions
If your online business involves selling products or services, choose a reliable e-commerce platform and payment gateway. Offer various payment options to cater to your customers’ preferences and ensure secure transactions.
7. Content Creation
High-quality content is key to attracting and engaging your target audience. Develop a content strategy that includes blog posts, videos, and other relevant content that provides value to your audience. Consistent and relevant content can drive traffic and establish your authority in your niche.
8. Digital Marketing
Promote your online business through various digital marketing channels. These may include social media marketing, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and search engine optimization. Tailor your marketing efforts to reach your specific target audience.
9. Customer Service
Deliver excellent customer service to build trust and loyalty. Respond promptly to inquiries, resolve issues, and seek feedback to continually improve your products or services. Happy customers are more likely to become repeat buyers and refer others.
10. Data Analysis and Adaptation
Regularly monitor your online business’s performance through analytics tools. Analyze the data to make informed decisions and adapt your strategies accordingly. The online landscape evolves quickly, so staying agile and open to change is essential.
11. Legal and Tax Compliance
Stay informed about legal and tax obligations relevant to your online business. Compliance is vital to avoid legal issues and financial penalties. Consider consulting with a professional accountant or attorney to navigate the complexities of online business regulations and taxation.
12. Scale and Diversify
Once your online business is thriving, explore opportunities for growth. This might involve expanding your product or service range, reaching new markets, or diversifying your income streams. Continual innovation is key to long-term success.
In conclusion, the world of online businesses offers endless possibilities for aspiring entrepreneurs. By following these essential steps, you can increase your chances of creating a successful online venture. Remember that persistence, adaptability, and a commitment to providing value to your audience are fundamental qualities of a thriving online business owner.
The internet has revolutionized the way we do business. If you have a unique idea, a passion, or a solution to a problem, there’s never been a better time to start your online business. So, why wait? Take the plunge and embark on your journey to online business success today.