Friday, August 5 2022

Public health experts expressed shock on Friday as New York City moved forward with plans to hold a scaled-down, but still large, New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, with 15,000 people is expected to pack the landmark to ring in 2022 as the city sets new records for Covid-19 cases.

Incumbent Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that the traditional New Year’s ball drop will continue, prompting epidemiologists to warn that the event will carry risks for attendees and the city’s already strained health facilities, as well as communities across the country, since many attendees are likely to come from elsewhere.

“This is a potential superspreader event,” Dr. Oni Blackstock, founder of healthcare advisory group Health Justice, said on Tuesday as the city reported more than 27,000 new cases and a rate of positivity exceeding 19%.

Blackstock noted that major international cities, including Tokyo, Paris and Rome, have canceled their public New Year celebrations due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

“NYC needs to follow suit,” she said. said.

New York City Councilman Mark D. Levine, chairman of the council’s health committee, agreed.

The city is taking a few precautions in addition to limiting attendance at the event, which only frontline workers and family members attended last year but which typically draws tens of thousands of in-person viewers .

“If we lack hospital capacity, then we are in a different world of suffering.”

All participants over the age of five will be required to provide proof of vaccination and masks will be required.

Yet New York University epidemiologist Dr. Danielle Ompad Told the New York Times Thursday, “given the increase in Covid cases due to Omicron, I would not go to Times Square to watch the ball fall”.

Earlier this week, the city was forced to close an entire subway line between Queens and Manhattan due to the number of transit workers who have called in sick. The New York City Fire Department has appealed to New Yorkers to refrain from calling 911, except in an actual emergency, after receiving calls from sick residents who wanted that ambulances take them to hospital for Covid-19 tests. The department reported that a third of its paramedics were sick this week.

More than 100,000 people in the city have tested positive since Christmas Day.

Emergency physician Dr Kelly Doran said while an outdoor celebration is safer than an indoor gathering, the event is likely to send thousands onto the city’s subway .

“How do you think people get to Times Square? » tweeted Doran. “Where do they go next? And how much of our first responder resources will this event consume with [emergency medical services] already in trouble?

The city’s Mount Sinai Health System announced on Wednesday that it was suspending elective surgeries at its hospitals. Although the city’s intensive care units are far less full than they were during the surge last winter, before vaccines became widely available, Levine Told the Time that illness among health care workers is causing a “squeeze”.

Doran called the plan to move forward with the celebration – backed by both de Blasio and new Democratic mayor Eric Adams, who will be sworn in at the event – “pretty unreal” given the increase cases of Omicron.

“Right now, we are in the public health crisis of our lifetime,” CNN medical analyst Jonathan Reiner told “CNN Newsroom” on Thursday. “And while I love a big party…all of these people have to get to Times Square somehow, they’re all going to be on public transportation, they’re going to be on the subway. And I honestly think that’s should have been canceled like most European cities have done.”

“If we run out of hospital capacity,” he added, “then we are in a different world of suffering.”

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