(CNN)New York state reported that Thursday had the highest single day count of new Covid-19 cases with 21,027, according to data released Friday.
New York’s data also revealed that positive Covid-19 cases in the state jumped 154% in less than a week.
The previous high was January 14 when there were 19,942 new cases reported.
“We must not make light of the winter surge that we are facing, and we should continue to encourage everyone we know to get vaccinated, get the booster and wear a mask,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said Thursday in a news release.
Covid-19-related hospitalizations remain comparatively low. On Friday, the state reported 3,839 hospitalizations, as compared with 8,088 on January 14, according to state data.
At its peak in mid-April 2020, New York’s hospitalization total for Covid-19 nearly reached 19,000.
The data revelations come as New York City reported its positivity rate from PCR tests doubled over a four-day period. The NYC Health Commissioner says cases have tripled in the past month.
Expert says ‘viral blizzard’ will hit
The coronavirus will hit millions of Americans in a “viral blizzard” within a few weeks as infections from the Omicron variant pile on top of Delta, an expert predicts.
Already, hospitalizations are rising as the holiday season gets into full swing. Long lines for Covid-19 testing formed Thursday in metro areas, including New York, Boston and Miami.
The Delta variant remains a problem. And Omicron, with its high transmissibility, could strike millions more soon, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
“We’re really just about to experience a viral blizzard,” Osterholm told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Thursday. “In the next three to eight weeks, we’re going to see millions of Americans are going to be infected with this virus, and that will be overlaid on top of Delta, and we’re not yet sure exactly how that’s going to work out.”
The Omicron variant has been identified in at least 40 states, in addition to Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, according to public statements from hospital systems and state officials in their respective states.
It’s been just 17 days since the US detected its first case of Omicron.
“What you have here right now is a potential perfect storm,” Osterholm said. “I’ve been very concerned about the fact that we could easily see a quarter or a third of our health care workers quickly becoming cases themselves.”
Other signs include:
- New Orleans says it will require kids ages 5 to 11 be vaccinated before entering public schools, restaurants and other businesses.
- Colleges and universities are returning to online learning.
- Sports leagues are postponing games due to players testing positive.
- Broadway shows are canceling performances.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday the Omicron coronavirus variant is “increasing rapidly” and expected “to become the dominant strain in the United States as it has in other countries in the coming weeks.”
Andy Slavitt, a former senior pandemic adviser to President Joe Biden, said that while tools such as vaccines are now available rather than during last winter’s surge, “a very rough January” lies ahead due to Omicron.
“For the health care workers, the hospitals, for people who are sick, even sick with things other than Covid, that represents a real danger and a real threat,” Slavitt told CNN’s Don Lemon on Thursday.
Two indicators are up about 40% in the last month, according to data from Johns Hopkins University: the seven-day average of new cases topped 120,000; and the total number of hospitalizations stands at more than 68,000.
The seven-day average for deaths was 1,286 as of Thursday, an 8% increase from a month ago, the data show.
Getting vaccinated or boosted remains key as millions of Americans get ready for holiday travel.
Recent lab studies of blood taken from vaccinated people and exposed to Omicron showed the variant can evade some protection offered by two doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, but a booster dose restores much of that immunity, researchers reported Wednesday. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has shown similar results.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its recommendations for Covid-19 vaccines to make clear that shots made by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are preferred over Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
The daily rate of vaccinations is up around 22% from a month prior, according to CDC data, with more than half being booster doses. At the current pace, it will take more than two months for at least half of adults to get a Covid-19 booster, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data.
Biden said Thursday that vaccinations and boosters are essential to keeping businesses and holiday gatherings safe.
“For the unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death,” he said. “But there’s good news if you’re vaccinated and you have your booster shot, you’re protected from severe illness and death.”
Vaccines still the best way to fight Covid-19, officials say
Even with the potential spread of the Omicron variant, former Obama White House health policy adviser Dr. Zeke Emanuel said the United States has tools to fight Covid-19, unlike during its onset.
“In March 2020, we didn’t understand a lot about coronavirus. Second of all, we have vaccines now. We have the ability to change those vaccines. We’re getting oral therapeutics. We have much better tests and test availability. None of that’s perfect, but it’s much better than it was in March 2020,” Emanuel told CNN’s Michael Smerconish on Thursday.
Continued research into additional drugs to fight coronavirus is ongoing.
Merck’s Covid-19 antiviral, molnupiravir, lowers the risk of hospitalization or death in high-risk unvaccinated adults by 30%, according to a statement issued after publication of its clinical trial data in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Among people who got the treatment, the risk of hospitalization and death was 6.8%, compared with 9.7% among people who got a placebo, the study said. There was one death in the treatment group, compared with nine deaths in the placebo group.
While successes are being found in some treatments pre- and post-infection, the rates of severe disease and death for those vaccinated continue to prove much lower even with data showing vaccines’ reduced effectiveness against certain variants.
“Given the increased risk related to the Delta and Omicron variant, it is important to increase uptake of primary vaccination and booster doses in all eligible populations,” said Heather Scobie, a member of the CDC’s Enhanced Surveillance Epidemiology Task Force Covid-19 Emergency Response.
We are at war, Fauci says
The US can win the war against the coronavirus if people keep fighting and use the weapons at hand, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday.
Fauci likened the fight against Covid-19 to World War II, which raged for years.
“We will win this war with this virus, but we will win it only because we apply the things that we have: the interventions,” said Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We are so fortunate that we have a highly effective and safe vaccine. We know what public health mitigations work. We have just got to hang in there. We can’t give up.”
Fauci said Americans should be fine for the upcoming holidays if people follow the recommendations of the CDC on vaccinations and mask wearing.
“We should enjoy it with our family and our friends,” he added.
CDC director: Test-to-stay works
Walensky said Friday that new evidence shows that “test-to-stay,” which involves testing instead of quarantining students who may have been exposed to the virus at school, works to keep children in school safely, even if they have been exposed to the coronavirus.
“Test-to-stay is an encouraging public health practice to keep our children in school,” Walensky said during a virtual White House briefing.
In the past few months, the CDC has collaborated with certain school districts to evaluate test-to-stay programs. Two of the communities that collaborated with the CDC are Lake County, Illinois, and Los Angeles County, California.
Pfizer to add third dose to children’s vaccine trials
Pfizer said Friday that interim data indicated the child-sized doses of its vaccine weren’t producing the expected immunity in the 2- to 5-year-old group. The company said it was adding a third dose, given two months after the second dose, to the clinical trials regimen for those children.
The company said it expected to apply for US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization in the second quarter of 2022 (instead of first quarter).
Fauci said the delay in authorization in necessary.
“You want to really get the right dose and the right regimen for the children,” he told CNN. “So although you don’t like there to be a delay, you want to get it right, and that’s what they’re talking about. “
CNN’s Jen Christensen, Maggie Fox, Deidre McPhillips, Jacqueline Howard, Naomi Thomas, Virginia Langmaid, Allie Malloy, John Bonifield, Katherine Dillinger, Laura Studley , Steve Almasy, Amy Simonson and Kay Jones contributed to this report.