ALBANY, NY – A year after becoming a global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, New York and New Jersey are back at the top of the list of US states with the highest infection rates.
Even as the vaccination campaign intensified, the number of new infections in New Jersey soared 37% in just over a month, to about 23,600 every seven days. About 50,000 people a week in New York City test positive for the virus, a number that has not changed much since mid-February.
The two states now rank first and second in new infections per capita among U.S. states. New Jersey has reported about 647 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days. New York has an average of 548.
The situation in New York and New Jersey reflects a national trend that has seen the number of cases increase in recent days. The United States averages nearly 62,000 cases a day, up from 54,000 two weeks ago.
Neither state is seeing anything like what they saw last spring, when hospitals – and morgues – were overflowing. And like the rest of the country, the two are in a much better place than in January, at the height of the pandemic’s winter peak.
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But the lack of improvement or even the rollback in recent weeks has raised fears that states are opening up too quickly and people are letting their guard down too much, just as potentially more contagious variants of the virus are circulating more widely.
“When we see a stabilization or an increase in cases, it’s time to rethink policies,” said Roy Gulick, head of the infectious disease division at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital / Weill Cornell Medical Center.
In February, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo cleared the state’s largest stadiums to once again host sporting events and concerts, albeit at just 10% of their normal capacity. New York theaters have been allowed to reopen. Restaurants can now operate at 50% capacity in New York City and 75% elsewhere in the state. Indoor fitness classes have also resumed.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has spearheaded a similar reopening, with restaurants in the state also allowed to half-operate and barbers, salons and other personal care businesses resuming operations.
This has happened in other parts of the country as well.
Utah, Alabama, Arkansas and Indiana to end mask mandates in early April, joining states such as Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, Montana and Iowa who have eliminated face coverage requirements in recent weeks. Some states allow businesses to operate at full capacity.
But in Illinois, the state’s public health director on Friday stressed the need to continue wearing masks and social distancing in the face of an increase in cases and hospitalizations. The day-long total of confirmed and probable cases of the disease surpassed 3,000 on Friday for the first time in seven weeks, and hospitalizations have jumped 15% in the past five days.
Murphy has said in recent days that he is taking a break from further easing of the rules due to the New Jersey resurgence.
The number of people hospitalized with the virus in New York has peaked at around 4,600 since mid-March. Hospitals in New Jersey are reporting about 2,200 patients with the virus, an increase of about 300 in the past two weeks.
“They’re spreading faster and our immunization rates are improving every week, but they’re definitely not where we want them to be,” said Bruce Farber, chief infectious disease and public health and epidemiology for Northwell Health.
Experts cite several potential factors, including the spread of potentially more contagious variants in the densely populated region.
“Is there something different going on in this part of the country compared to other parts of the country? Asked Dr. Ed Lifshitz, medical director of the New Jersey Communicable Disease Department within the state health department. “And the answer is probably yes. ”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio questioned whether Cuomo was relaxing the restrictions “for political reasons,” despite reasons of concern. The governor faces calls for his resignation over allegations of sexual harassment.
But de Blasio himself announced that 80,000 more city workers would no longer work from home, as of May.
New York City public attorney Jumaane Williams has urged New York to suspend reopening plans.
“I ask the governor to stick to the science, to trust the experts and to suspend reopenings planned now, before they take effect and others are infected,” Williams said.
Experts fear the public will get the message that the increase in immunization means the state is in the clear, even though only a fraction of the public has taken a full course. Vaccines reduce the risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, but scientists are still studying how well they prevent the spread of the virus.
“Allowing larger groups to come together, to send the message to the public that we are above the worst and can get back to normal is wrong,” Farber said.
Stony Brook University professor and neuroepidemiologist Sean Clouston said the growth of new cases is concentrated among young people, who cannot get the vaccine in New York City unless they have specific or certain health concerns. jobs. He said their infection rates could also drop once they qualify.