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Just in time for the start of the holiday season this week, COVID-19 cases are on the rise in New York City — but the situation isn’t nearly as grim as it was a year ago.
Public civil servants urged New Yorkers in November 2020 to avoid large family gatherings for Turkey Day, fearing a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in the weeks after Thanksgiving, leading to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year. But then the COVID-19 vaccine had yet to be made generally available to the public.
Today, over the past year, vaccinations have not only helped New York City reopen, but also enabled New Yorkers to protect themselves and their loved ones so they can enjoy the holidays together again. Nevertheless, the risk of infection with COVID-19 remains, especially among the unvaccinated, and cases grow as the weather gets colder and more events are moved indoors.
Heading into Thanksgiving week, 25 communities in the Five Boroughs have 7-day positivity rates of over 3%, according to the city’s Department of Mental Health and Hygiene. Between November 10 and 16, 50 or more new COVID-19 infections were diagnosed in 35 neighborhoods.
East Williamsburg/Williamsburg, Brooklyn (zip code 11211), again led the city in the number of new COVID-19 cases last week, with 131. That was closely followed by Ridgewood/Glendale, Queens (11385) with 127, followed by the Brooklyn areas of South Williamsburg (11206, 90 cases), Midwood (11230, 88 cases), Bath Beach/Bensonhurst/Gravesend (11214, 85 cases), Brooklyn Heights/DUMBO/Downtown Brooklyn (11201, 81 cases) ; and Bay Ridge/Fort Hamilton (11209, 81 cases).
The Great Kills area of Staten Island (10308) had the highest 7-day positivity rate in the city between Nov. 10-16, at 6.21%, with 63 new cases detected. Two other Staten Island neighborhoods were in the top 10 for positivity: Charleston/Prince’s Bay/Woodrow (10309, 5.06%, 60 new cases) and Lighthouse Hill/Midland Beach/New Dorp/Oakwood (10306, 3.88% , 72 new cases).
Transmission rates, which track the spread of COVID-19 throughout the city, are also rising. The citywide figure, as of Nov. 14, was 99.94 cases per 100,000 people, up from 82.81 per 100,000 reported a week earlier.
Every municipality except the Bronx has a higher rate of transmission than citywide numbers, with Staten Island leading the way with 139.24 cases per 100,000 people.
But even as more New Yorkers become infected with COVID-19, the encouraging news is that hospitalizations and deaths remain stable and low. The number of hospital admissions on November 14 was 0.64 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Most of the COVID-19 infections requiring hospitalization in New York City still involve unvaccinated residents. The hospitalization rate for unvaccinated New Yorkers was 14.41 per 100,000 residents as of Nov. 7; by contrast, the hospitalization rate for vaccinated New Yorkers infected with breakthrough COVID-19 cases was only 1.41 per 100,000.
Vaccines continue to provide strong protection against New Yorkers, and last week the city and CDC urged all vaccinated New Yorkers to get booster shots to further protect themselves from the virus.
The treatment of COVID-19 has also come a long way in recent months, with new therapies such as monoclonal antibodies that help reduce the severity of infection and prevent New Yorkers from becoming seriously ill and/or dying from COVID-19.
But many New York City neighborhoods continue to struggle with low vaccination rates. Eleven communities have 60% or fewer residents who received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with Borough Park, Brooklyn topping that list with only 49% of residents on one dose and 46% fully vaccinated.
Other low vaxx areas include Edgemere/Far Rockaway, Queens (11692, 54% single dose, 48% fully vaccinated) and the Brooklyn areas of Bedford-Stuyvesant/Clinton Hill/Fort Greene (11205, 56% single dose, 51 % fully vaccinated), Midwood (11230, 57% single dose, 51% fully vaccinated); and Flatlands/Midwood (11210, 57% single dose, 52% fully vaccinated).