NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- With Christmas Eve just one week away, there is growing alarm over increasing COVID cases across the Tri-State region.
Governor Kathy Hochul said that 21,027 positive test results were reported in New York state Thursday, setting a new single-day reporting record.
"The winter surge in COVID-19 cases is a reminder that the pandemic is not over yet and we must take extra care to keep ourselves and each other safe," Hochul said. "The vaccine is still our best weapon to defeat the virus and ensure we are safe from serious illness. Get the shot if you haven't yet and the booster if you have, mask up, and wash your hands."
In New York City, lines for coronavirus testing stretched for blocks, with some people waiting for hours for their turn.
Three schools in the city were forced to temporarily close due to the rising numbers, bringing the total to four.
Still, the Department of Education said that four schools being closed is actually low. They are slated to reopen after winter recess on January 3.
"We do not hesitate to take action to keep school communities safe and our multi-layered approach to safety allows us to respond quickly and stop the spread. All school employees staff are vaccinated and every student will have a device to ensure live, continuous learning," The DOE said.
The three schools now closed include: Eagle Academy for Young Men II in Brooklyn, PS 18 in the Bronx, and Robert E. Peary School in Queens.
In just the past two weeks, hospitalizations are up 22% in New York, 71% in Connecticut and 66% in New Jersey. Still, Mayor Bill de Blasio sought to ease concerns regarding business and school closures.
NYC hospitalization rates by vaccination status:
"No, no, no," he said when asked about the possibility. "This is not March of 2020."
He cited vaccine and booster rates, as well as the potential impact on the economy.
"We are one of the most highly vaccinated places in the USA," he said. "The great danger is shutdowns and restrictions, because that would really destroy, in so many ways, people's livelihoods...(with) everything people have been through, it would be traumatizing. We need to focus on vaccination, radically, use the mandates to the fullest. That's not just here, but all over the country."
De Blasio on Thursday detailed a six-pronged approach to stamping out omicron in New York City.
Those measures include:
--Issuing a health advisory with guidance on keeping safe, including recommendations for mask wearing, vaccination, testing and booster shots
--Increase testing capacity with more mobile sites and a doubling down on brick and mortar sites, along with creating new fixed sites an expanding hours of operation
--Distributing 1 million KN95 masks to health centers and clinics
--Distributing half a million at home rapid tests, all for free
--Doubling down on boosters, being aggressive with a paid media campaign to encourage all who qualify to get a booster
--Doubling down on inspections to enforce all current mandates in place
Dr. Jay Varma, a senior health advisor to de Blasio, said the current spike is a sign of the omicron variant's rapid spread and ability to evade immunity.
"Um, we've never seen this before in #NYC," he tweeted.
He went on to say that omicron was evading both vaccine and virus-induced immunity "unlike any variant before."
"That's only explanation for dramatic jump in positivity," he wrote. "Consensus for now (but subject to change) is that immunity *against severe disease* should be far better."
Cases per capita by vaccination status:
There is still much unknown about omicron's severity, but at this point, it appears to be spread much more easily, though thankfully cases at this point appear to be more mild.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul warned that "people are underestimating the power of omicron" and urged common sense, mask wearing and booster shots ahead of the winter.
"Has anybody heard anything I've said today about the situation we are in?" she said. "This is a crisis. This is a health care crisis, and people are going to die. It is not hyperbole."
Hochul said she anticipates "a very serious situation" and that "we are in for a very rough ride this winter" with the omicron variant.
She also criticized "a few outlier counties that have declared their resistance to following health laws."
NYC COVID death rates by vaccination status:
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