The year 2021 may be coming to a close, but in New York state, a lot of things are suddenly reminiscent of 2020.
Events are being postponed, schools are going remote, mask mandates have returned and COVID-19 cases are surging.
On Friday, the state Department of Health reported 21,027 new cases, which is the highest daily number since the pandemic began. It comes a day after the third highest daily number on record. Before Friday, the state’s highest reported new daily cases amount came on Jan. 14, with 19,942.
Put another way, Thursday’s case count was 58% higher than the peak number during the spring apex in April 2020, though the number of hospitalizations and deaths — while still higher than they have been in a while — are nowhere near where they were at that time.
Still, a post-Thanksgiving surge is underway, and a lot of COVID-19 developments have taken place since the turkey holiday. The omicron variant emerged the day after, and has since been detected in several parts of the state. Barely a week ago, Gov. Kathy Hochul reinstated a public indoor mask mandate, which for now is set to expire on Jan. 15. And staffing shortages at hospitals have prompted pauses in elective surgeries and other procedures at nearly three dozen hospitals across the state.
Hochul addressed all of those things in a news conference on Thursday, and warned about what the situation may look like as the cold months progress.
“The winter surge is in full force," Hochul said. “And I believe it's going to be even stronger and more virulent and I believe we're in for a rough ride this winter season.”
All of this comes with more holidays directly on the horizon when people plan gatherings. And the surge has been a reminder that many aspects of normal life are still being interrupted by the ongoing pandemic. In New York City, the Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes canceled its four shows scheduled to run Friday. Four Broadway shows were canceled on Thursday. The next two upcoming Syracuse University men’s basketball games have been postponed due to COVID-19 protocols, and neither has a reschedule date yet.
With the case surge and a returned mask mandate, while New York sits on a 82% completed series vaccination rate among those 18 years and older, Gov. Hochul was asked Thursday “when this will end?”
“No one could’ve foreseen that we’d even be dealing with omicron variant months ago,” Hochul said. “There is no person on this planet that can give an answer to the question ‘when will this end?’ No can I. That’s my answer today. I don’t have an answer.”