The rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in New York City this summer has slowed in recent weeks, convincing some epidemiologists that the city’s third virus wave has begun to ebb. But others are bracing for an uptick in cases.
With the school year starting, and municipal agencies and some large companies mandating a return to the office, the old weekday rhythms are about to return for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, even as levels of the virus remain relatively high.
For the moment, the rates of new cases and hospitalizations are down from their summer peaks.
In mid-August, nearly 2,000 people a day on average were testing positive in New York City, a tenfold increase from earlier in the summer. The rate of new cases was highest among young adults, ages 18 to 34. More than 100 people were being hospitalized each day.
But over the past three weeks, new cases and other indicators have begun dropping. Staten Island has had by far the highest level of transmission, with one in every 417 people testing positive in a recent seven-day period. That was more than twice the rate in Queens, which had the lowest virus levels.
The surge in New York City and much of the Northeast has been mild compared to the South, largely because of diverging vaccination rates, epidemiologists say. On Thursday, the city reached a new milestone: five million New York City residents, about 60 percent of the population, are now fully vaccinated.
But there are still large pockets of New York City that remain unvaccinated. In particular, Black New Yorkers, who have far lower vaccination rates than other groups, have been hit hardest by the third wave.
So far, the third wave has been minor compared with the previous two. In early September, the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in New York City in a single day reached 900, before falling below 800 this weekend. In April 2020, there were more than 12,100 at the peak.