New York slashes Covid testing amid US summer surge


Bloomberg – New York City is reducing Covid-19 testing sites despite omicron subvariants leading to a national increase in new cases and hospitalization rates.

The city’s public health system has closed hundreds of testing sites as public attention to the virus fades, according to its website. Meanwhile, the rate of positive total test results, an indicator of the speed of the spread, rose to 15.4% this week, about four times what it was in April.

Hospitalizations and deaths, which can be a lagging indicator, have declined slightly in recent weeks, according to reports from the city’s health department. Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday his hospitals are not stressed and the city is in a “good stable place.”

“New York City and its Test & Trace Corps operate more than 300 testing sites daily, including more than 110 mobile testing sites and more than 200 home test distribution sites,” said a spokesperson for the town hall in a press release. “Our shift to mobile testing and home test distribution significantly increases the number of sites available for New Yorkers to get tested, ensuring that fast, flexible and free COVID-19 testing is available to all New Yorkers. -Yorkers.”

The omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants boost infections, accounting for at least 70% of the total nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although they are more transmissible and better able to evade immune defenses than previous versions, people who have been vaccinated or previously infected generally suffer from low rates of severe disease, according to Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. in Boston.

“I think the vaccines have basically done their job,” Barouch, who developed Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine, said in an interview. “They turned a life-threatening disease into a mild disease for most individuals.”

Earlier this month, the Adams administration ended its use of a color-coded Covid alert system it implemented after taking office in January.

The city, which focuses on the rate of new cases per 100,000 population instead of positivity numbers as a key indicator, is still urging New Yorkers to boost up and hide indoors. But, according to Adams, the warning system was “not good for the war we are fighting now.”

‘See no harm’

Not everyone applauds the decision. Gregg Gonsalves, an infectious disease expert at the Yale School of Public Health, said he was myopic and unaware of the reality of the ongoing outbreak.

“We have entered the phase of the pandemic that sees no evil, speaks no evil and hears no evil: if we pretend there is none, even if we stop counting it , we think it will go away,” he said. . “Unfortunately, planned ignorance is not bliss.”

Read more: What we know about the Omicron clan of virus variants

The national seven-day average of daily cases is more than 106,000 on Wednesday, according to the CDC, compared to about 25,000 through most of March and April. U.S. hospitalization rates are also up slightly, from a seven-day daily average of 4,930 on June 28 to 5,080 the week of July 5.

Confidence in the public health response appears mixed, according to a Pew Research survey showing that 43% of Americans say the country prioritized public health correctly during the pandemic, while 34% say the epidemic received too little attention.

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Meanwhile, the virus’ continued march across the United States has drawn varying responses from health officials. Texas has seen an overall increase in Covid cases over the past two months, and hospitalizations for the disease have reached their highest level since March.

Austin city officials have urged residents to wear N95 masks indoors amid widespread transmission and waning immunity. In June, the city canceled plans to shut down a mass vaccination site as demand for children under 5 grew.

In California, the daily positivity rate of 15% is the highest since January. Counties with high levels of community transmission include San Francisco, Sacramento and Ventura, according to the CDC.

Read more: All about Paxlovid and other Covid-19 treatments

While hospitalization rates in Los Angeles County have remained relatively stable over the past month, BA.4 and BA.5 have become a cause for concern, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during an interview. a briefing on Thursday. Their ability to re-infect people who have been infected with other strains is particularly concerning, she said.

Other new variants could pose the threat of a return to severe widespread disease, Barouch said, so it’s important to remain vigilant. That means ongoing testing and monitoring, Yale’s Gonsalves said.

The coronavirus “will continue to infect Americans, disrupt lives, send people to the hospital, some to the morgue, leave some with lingering symptoms for months, even years,” a- he declared. Taking a step back from testing “is not a plan, it’s an abdication”.

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