New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul has said the state is ‘turning the corner’ in the fight against the coronavirus with the numbers of those still in hospital starting to decline.
The Omicron surge finally appears to be on the wave in the state with the number of people still in hospital at 12,207 having dropped for the previous three days.
The spike in cases also now seems to be trending down with 49,027 new infections recorded on Thursday. One week earlier they were at a record high of 90,000.
At the peak, the percentage of those testing positive for the virus was at 23.17%. on January 3. It has since fallen to 16.3%.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul says the state is ‘turning the corner’ on the omicron-fueled winter surge as COVID cases, hospitalizations and state’s positivity rate fell for the first time in weeks
Governor Hochul touted the decline of the state’s seven-day average of new cases which peaked last week over 90,000 and fell to below 50,000 on Friday
People walk past a COVID-19 testing sign during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City
‘Turning the corner, you heard it here first. I’ve been waiting to say it: turning a corner,’ Hochul said during a briefing at at University of Albany’s RNA Institute. ‘Our highest point was a week ago. Highest to lowest in a week thus far and that lowest is going to continue to go down.’
Nevertheless, Gov. Hochul warned ‘this is no time to spike the football despite the long awaited, much anticipated decline’ in hospitalizations and infections across New York state.
‘We still need to remain vigilant,’ she said during a press briefing in at the State Capital, Albany.
The numbers of people in hospital and the percentage of those testing positive are trending down
‘Let’s continue to use the tools we know will help stop the spread and keep ourselves safe: get the vaccine, get the booster, wear a mask, and stay home if you’re feeling sick.
‘There will come a time when it is all over. We are not there yet. But boy, it is on the horizon, and we’ve waited a long time for that.’
On Thursday, 195 deaths were recorded which was up slightly from 177 recorded on Wednesday.
More than 62,800 New Yorkers have died from COVID during the pandemic.
Hocul said that the death rate in the state would soon start to trend downwards as it typically lags behind the numbers of infections and those in hospital.
Hochul stressed that she was keen to remove the indoor mask mandate when it became clear the Omicron variant no longer posed a threat.
She also described the mask mandate as a ‘short term’ necessity noting that she wanted to ‘make people feel liberated’ as soon as possible.
‘I don’t have the knowledge right now of what’s going to happen on February 1, referring to the current indoor mask mandate,’ Gov. Hochul said. ‘we’re going to monitor the situation and make sure there’s not a trend that changes things quickly.’
The state has secured an additional 64 million COVID tests that will be distributed to schools, nursing homes and other sites.
Since the variant was detected in November, WHO data shows it has spread quickly and emerged in at least 128 countries, presenting dilemmas for nations across the globe, as well as people seeking to revive their savings accounts – and lives – after nearly two years of COVID-related lockdowns and mandates.
But as case numbers have surged to all-time highs, hospitalizations and death rates in the US have not seen such increases.
‘What we are seeing now is….the decoupling between the cases and the deaths,’ the WHO head said.
The lower death counts continue to spark hopes that the Omicron surge, and its associated closures and interruptions, will soon end. Above, a New York City teacher rallies for increased COVID safety measures in schools earlier this week
In South Africa, where it was first detected, the outbreak has peaked and is now rapidly declining.
The record surge began in December, only weeks after the new variant was discovered by South African health officials. Omicron is the most infectious strain of the virus yet, and its ability to evade vaccine immunity has presented additional challenges.
Worldwide, nearly ten million people have tested positive for the virus over the past week alone. Some believe this rampant spread of the virus will lead to it becoming ‘endemic’ – reaching the stage the common flu is at where it is ever-present, yet controllable for the most part.
Officials at the World Health Organization warn that this may not be the case, though, due to the unpredictable nature of Covid and the constant mutations of the virus.
American health leaders, like Dr Walensky and Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease, have centered vaccines in their fight against the virus – even in the wake of a vaccine resistant strain.
The CDC also plans to soon upgrade its recommendation for masks to only include N95 and KN95 masks, which are believed to be the most protective but are also in short supply in some parts of America.
Recently revealed data shows that commonly used cloth masks are not very effective at preventing spread of the Omicron variant.
While the variant can evade the immunity provided by the initial vaccine regimens, experts have found that vaccine booster shots can re-establish some of those protections.
Breakthrough infections are also more mild than those in unvaccinated people, and the Omicron variant is found to be a more mild strain, less likely to cause infection or death than other strains of the virus.
Because of the rise of Omicron, and the potential for future variants with similar vaccine resistant properties to arise as well, some fear Covid may never be fully ended.
As long as the virus continues to mutate, it will always be able to find away around vaccines with the protection people receive from the shots seeming to wane in a matter of months.
Health officials have said New York’s high vaccination rate helped keep those who did get sick from needing to be treated in intensive care units . Pictured, a person waits for a test in Boston
Some experts are hopeful that the high infectiousness of the variant, combined with the relatively mild symptoms of Omicron could mean that the pandemic is soon coming to a close. Dr Jim Baker, an immunologist at the University of Michigan, wrote in blog that the virus is showing similar signs to the 2011 flu pandemic that it will burn out soon.
‘We have been focused on number of infections with COVID-19 because of the very sensitive and accurate diagnostic tests (PCR) we have developed,’ he said.
‘In contrast, as we look at the end of the pandemic, we now need to focus less on infections and more on deaths. That is truly the important marker of a pandemic’s impact and the only comparable measure to the 1918 flu epidemic where there were no diagnostic tests.’
‘In the 1917 flu pandemic, after the initial burst of infections and deaths, two waves of deaths followed, each one less impactful. This is how pandemics end; two ‘echo’ waves each being less and less significant. It is because in each wave the most susceptible individuals have been killed off as the rest of the population develops immunity. A similar pattern was seen in the 2011 Influenza A pandemic and it has now emerged with COVID-19. This pattern shows the COVID-19 pandemic is burning out.’