Foss: New York’s virus numbers remain high

From a Saratoga Springs testing site in January

From a Saratoga Springs testing site in January

I’ve been in a sunny mood lately.

Spring is here, millions of Americans have been vaccinated and the painful winter wave of the virus, which saw infections, hospitalizations and deaths spike all over the U.S., is finally receding.

You can see that better days are on the horizon, and most of the people I talk to express a palpable sense of relief:

Thank God the pandemic is ending. 

Public officials have emphasized the positive, touting the growing numbers of residents inoculated against the virus and loosening virus-related restrictions. The overall theme is one of progress, with an eye toward victory:

We are winning the war on COVID-19.

I agree that there’s a lot to be happy about.

But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the virus remains a threat.

Take a closer look at New York’s COVID-19 performance, and you’ll see a state that’s doing better, though perhaps not as well as you thought.

The upbeat outlook from political leaders such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has obscured a worrying reality: New York has the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rate in the country, and the second highest infection rate.

I’ll admit it: I didn’t realize how high New York’s COVID-19 numbers still are until I read an analysis of the latest data by Bill Hammond, senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy.

As Hammond noted, “The number of newly diagnosed cases per day has been virtually flat since mid-February at just under 40 per 100,000 residents, which is roughly double the national average and second only to New Jersey.”

For all the talk of the pandemic fading away, it’s still very much with us.

On Wednesday, 4,798 New Yorkers were hospitalized with COVID-19, 6,489 new positive tests were reported and 58 new deaths were recorded.

We’ve seen worse – on Jan. 19, 9,273 New Yorkers were hospitalized with COVID-19 – but that’s cold comfort when you consider how much more needs to be done to get these numbers down to acceptable levels.

It’s easy to forget, but in early September fewer than 500 New Yorkers were hospitalized with COVID-19.

What’s unclear is why New York’s pandemic progress has stalled.

Why has a state that prides itself on crushing the virus last spring regressed in such dramatic fashion, with New York City and the lower Hudson Valley re-emerging as virus hot spots?

In his post, Hammond notes that Cuomo has been on the defensive over scandals related to his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic and accusations of bullying and sexual harassment – perhaps the firestorm of controversy and criticism is taking a toll.

Or perhaps fatigue has set in and people are letting down their guard.

Or perhaps we don’t fully understand why the virus hit New York as hard as it did, and the answer will only be revealed after the dust settles and scientists assess the damage.

What isn’t hard to grasp are the numbers, which remain troublingly high.

A bright future awaits us, but to get there, we must exercise caution and concern in the present.

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: News, Opinion, Sara Foss

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