Coronavirus pandemic
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
A man leaves a vaccination bus at a mobile clinic in New York in December. Photo: AP

New York sees signs of Omicron coronavirus peak, though ICUs remain pressured

  • There has been a fall in the rate of positive Covid-19 tests, as well as a drop in the number of people visiting emergency departments with symptoms
  • New Yorkers warned to expect a tough January but a better February, as cases and hospitalisations typically remain high for weeks after a peak

New York’s Covid-19 infections may have reached a peak, about a month after the city’s first case of the Omicron variant was identified.

The seven-day average of people visiting New York emergency departments with Covid-like illness has dipped significantly in all five boroughs since the end of December, according to data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The Bronx saw the biggest drop, with the seven-day average retreating 35 per cent in the week through Friday.

Citywide, the rate of positive tests also appears to be declining, with the seven-day average down to 31 per cent on Thursday, from a peak of 34 per cent on January 2.

A person receives a Covid-19 test out of a mobile testing van in New York on January 5. Photo: AFP

New York officials warned the recent data is subject to revisions and is affected to a degree by the holiday effect, which can artificially depress trend lines due to delays or under-reporting. Gatherings during the New Year’s Eve holiday could also prolong the Covid-19 spike.

“What we are looking for is a deceleration in the rate of growth and we’re not seeing that yet, but that’s what I’m looking for in the data to say we may be approaching the peak in the coming weeks,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi, in a January 5 briefing.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday said it was too early to call a Covid-19 peak but the data over the last few days made her “hopeful” that “hospitalisations should start seeing the beginnings of a plateau”.


State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett told New Yorkers to expect a difficult January and that “things should be much better by February”.

US hospitalisations skyrocket in children too young for Covid-19 shots

Still, it is clear that the exponential growth of Omicron cases in the US financial capital has moderated dramatically, echoing the reversal seen in South Africa, where the variant was first identified.

That has big implications for the city’s economic comeback, which relies on public workers whose ranks have been thinned at hospitals, schools and subways due to the Covid-19 surge.

A decline in cases could also prompt banks and other private businesses to bring their employees back to office buildings, which helps spur spending at the local level.


Cases and hospitalisations typically remain high for weeks after a peak and that is also expected with Omicron.


South Africa lifts coronavirus curfew as Omicron wave peaks without rise in death rate

South Africa lifts coronavirus curfew as Omicron wave peaks without rise in death rate

In the US, many governments and schools tie Covid-19 policy decisions to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s colour-coded “community transmission” scale, and New York is likely to stay in the “high” transmission category for some time, even if further data continues to bear out a positive trend.


Hospitals will also remain under pressure. The waves typically reach young and more socially active people first, before finding their way to the older and more vulnerable part of the population. Omicron is proving no different, and any suggestion of a peak is much more tenuous among older New Yorkers.

Among those 75-and-over, the seven-day average of emergency department visits with Covid-like illness was up Friday in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island from a week earlier and essentially flat in the other boroughs.

Likewise, the number of intensive-care unit Covid-19 patients who are intubated is still climbing in the city, up 61 per cent in the week through January 6, New York State Department of Health data shows.