New York City’s SantaCon celebrations likely contributed to the surge in COVID-19 cases, the chair of the city’s health committee has said, after thousands of revelers packed into Manhattan bars a week ago.
Records are being broken daily in the state – the 21,908 new cases reported on Saturday was a slight increase over the 21,027 cases reported the day before, and both were daily records.
The previous record was January 14, 2021, when 19,942 tested positive in the state.
The test positivity rate was 7.53 per cent – up from about 2.6 per cent on September 22.
Officials said that 3,909 people were hospitalized on Friday, a net increase of 70 patients.
Manhattan – which in previous waves was less hard-hit than the other boroughs of New York City – is currently the worst borough.
Mark Levin, the chair of the city’s health commission, said Santa Con – which sees thousands of costumed revelers trawl the bars of the East Village and Lower East Side – could be a factor.
‘Manhattan unfortunately now has highest covid rate in NYC,’ tweeted Levin on Saturday.
‘This is partly because we test more. But this should serve as a warning about how much omicron is out there.
‘Be especially cautious about indoor gatherings where masks come off. (And yes SantaCon may partly be to blame.)’
On social media, many said that they had tested positive since attending SantaCon – and others reacted with fury to the event having been held in the first place.
SantaCon is pictured on December 11 in New York City, with thousands of revelers gathering for the annual bar crawl – which was cancelled last year
Official attendance at this year’s gathering – the 23rd annual event – has not been confirmed.
In 2019, an estimated 30,000 party goers showed up.
In 2020 it was cancelled, but this year went ahead with precautions: participants were told to ready for New York City’s vaccine requirements, with bars and restaurants demanding proof of vaccination to enter.
‘Don’t F*** with NYC Vax Requirements,’ is one of the ‘six Fs of Santa Con’ posted on the website.
‘Santacon began in 1994 as San Francisco’s Santarchy, a culture-jamming event created by the Cacaphony Society to point out the absurdity of America’s consumerist holiday traditions,’ the organizers write.
‘Over the past 24 years, it’s grown to an annual tradition in its own right.
‘Although NYC hosts the largest existing Santacon, it is one of over 300 similar events that will take place in over 40 countries around the world this holiday season.’
Thousands of costumed bar crawlers are seen on December 11 processing down from Times Square
The event has been followed by a significant spike in COVID cases
Partygoers are seen on December 11 lining up to enter Margaritaville near Times Square
On Sunday, Hoboken, New Jersey, was staging its own version.
Ravi Bhalla, the mayor of Hoboken, signed an executive order on Thursday afternoon mandating that businesses taking part in the bar crawl make sure than anyone who enters has been fully vaccinated by December 4, or else they face potential closure, liquor license revocation or disciplinary suspension.
The order lasts all day Saturday and until 6pm on Sunday.
‘If you’re not vaccinated, our message is simple: Don’t bother participating in a bar crawl this weekend,’ said Bhalla.
Bars not participating in SantaCon are encouraged, but not mandated to require vaccinations indoors, the mayor’s announcement said.
On Thursday New Jersey reported its highest one-day total number of cases since January 13.
Hoboken’s experiment comes as the effects are being felt in New York City, a week later.
‘SantaCon Was Even More Cursed Than Usual This Year,’ reported New York Magazine.
Residents are now facing waits of over five hours to get tested at the city’s clinics.
People are seen on Saturday lining up to get tested for COVID-19 after days of record infections
A huge line forms at the Barclays Center Saturday as demand for COVID testing soars in New York City
People line up outside the Barclays Center for COVID-19 testing on Saturday as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in Brooklyn, New York City
On social media, many people were confirming their positive test after SantaCon – while others were furious that the event had been allowed to happen.
Nationwide, confirmed cases of Omicron reached 830 as of Saturday morning – a 50 per cent increase from Friday – and the new variant has been detected in nearly every state.
Kentucky, Arkansas, Maine, Kansas and Wyoming confirmed new Omicron cases, bringing the total to 45 states.
Dr Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, said that there needed to be more at-home testing.
‘We are going to see a significant stress, in some regions, of the hospital system,’ he said.
‘This virus is extraordinary. It has a doubling time of anywhere from two to three days.’
He said Omicron ‘is going to take over’ and that ‘we are going to be in for some significant difficulties’.
On Friday, the mayor of New York City joined Governor Kathy Hochul in rejecting any plans for another lockdown over the surge in COVID-19 cases.
Bill de Blasio, like Hochul, insisted on Friday that vaccination and precaution is the best way to combat the city’s COVID-19 surge.
‘No, no, no,’ de Blasio told WNYC on Friday when asked about possible shutdowns of public schools and other activities.
‘Don’t fight yesterday’s war,’ he added.
‘This is not March of 2020. We’re one of the most highly vaccinated places in the United States of America.
‘The more we vaccinate, the more we can get through this.’
Another lockdown ‘would really destroy, in so many ways, people’s livelihoods and it would, I think, after everything people have been through — it would be traumatizing.’
Hochul said that a return to the lockdowns of spring 2020 and winter 2020-21 were not the answer this time, with the vaccine in place and hospitalizations stable.
‘This spreads quickly, but it’s not as dangerous,’ she said of Omicron.
‘So while my number one goal is to protect the health of New Yorkers, I also want to protect the health of the economy.’
Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he would not use his authority to put New York City into another lockdown over higher coronavirus cases in recent weeks
Kathy Hochul, the governor of New York, on Friday said she did not want to return to lockdowns of 2020
Hochul spoke as the virus was surging in the state and in New York City
Hochul said she wanted people to continue ‘their regular activities’ and encouraged tourism.
‘I don’t want this economy to shut down again. It’s just so painful,’ she said. ‘I don’t want kids to stop going to school.’
She added: ‘I don’t want to have this artificial suppression based on fear, when we are in a far better place than we were so many months ago with the tools we need, the weapon we need – and that is the booster shot, in particular.
‘We can’t – and we won’t – go back to where we were 21 months ago.
‘We have the tools to fight this virus. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. If you’re fully vaccinated, get your booster as soon as you can.’
She said there was ‘very sadly’ a resistance among 8-10 per cent of New Yorkers.
‘The surge is here, it’s going to get worse, we know it’s going to get worse – especially after Christmas.
‘We saw a 70 per cent increase in cases from Thanksgiving to two weeks later. And the same thing will happen.
‘But it doesn’t have to be this way. This thing is so preventable.’
New York state has a significantly higher level of vaccination than the national average.
In her state, 93.9 percent of adults have had at least one shot, and 81.6 percent of all residents. Nationwide, the total falls to 77.1 percent of all people aged above five receiving at least one.
Yet the high level of vaccinations, and Hochul’s wish to keep the city and state economically vibrant, has not stopped serious disruptions to the state.
Restaurants and bars are not being forced to close, but several are, due to either staff sickness or customers staying away.
And several Broadway shows have closed.
The Radio City Rockettes announced on Friday they have canceled the remainder of their scheduled performances this season due to COVID-19.