New York City appears unable to cope with the rising incidence of the omicron strain of coronavirus, even despite some of the toughest restrictions and highest vaccination rates in the United States.
The number of new cases of the virus is the highest since January. Businesses are asking workers to stay home, schools are closing and there are long queues at covid test points. Broadway shows are cancelled, restaurants are suspended due to staff shortages and pockets of coronavirus outbreaks across the city at the busiest time of year for tourism.
Indeed, according to city data, 7.8 per cent tested positive on December 12, compared to 3.9 per cent on December 9. Many of these cases are mild, and the number of hospitalisations and deaths is far from the levels seen in the early days of the pandemic. However, hospitalisations are also rising rapidly and have more than doubled since the country's Thanksgiving celebrations.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Omicron, which appears to be much more contagious than previous variants of the coronavirus, has spread rapidly and accounts for 13% of all cases in the region.
New York State reported 18,276 new cases of Covid on 15 December, the third highest on record.
"This is a public health crisis and people are going to die," said Governor Kathy Hochul. This is not an exaggeration, these are the facts right now."
The spike in illness is causing many New Yorkers to rethink attending concerts, shows and holiday gatherings especially as testing centres become hard to reach again and homemade kits disappear from shop shelves.
On Thursday, the city said it would open five new polygons next week and hand out half a million home express tests and a million masks to protect against the Omicron strain.