Howard Beach high COVID-19 positivity rate draws attention

A patient arrives outside Maimonides Medical Center, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Brooklyn, New York
Howard Beach’s spike in COVID-19 positivity rate drew attention from a south Queens elected official.(REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

New data shows that certain variants of COVID-19 are on the rise in New York City’s coronavirus cases.

According to the Health Department, during the week of March 15 though 21, variants represent over 70 percent of COVID-19 cases sequenced. The increase suggests that they are more infectious than previously circulating variants.

In Queens, a new hotspot has emerged in Howard Beach where the COVID-19 positivity rate rose over 10 percent, drawing the attention of Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato.

“Our community has been through so much in the past year, so taking the necessary steps to bring down our positivity rate brings us closer to resuming our normal day-to-day lives,” Pheffer Amato said. “COVID-19 is still a threat, so we must keep our guard up to stop the spread: wear a mask, get tested, maintain good hand hygiene, stay home if you’re sick, social distance and get vaccinated.”

More than 4 million vaccinations have been distributed in the five boroughs but with Passover and Easter, the de Blasio administration is reminding New Yorkers to avoid large gatherings.

“This is particularly important to protect older adults and other people who may be more vulnerable,” Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dave Chokshi said. “Fully vaccinated people can gather with other fully vaccinated people with fewer precautions, but remember, most people remain unvaccinated and you are not considered fully vaccinated until 14 days after your last dose.”

Choksi warned of New Yorkers letting down their guard during Wednesday’s COVID briefing.

“Many New Yorkers are marking painful one-year anniversaries of those dark days last spring. Let’s do everything we can to ensure that the future is indeed brighter than that past. So, even though we are all tired, now is not the time to let our guard down,” Choksi said. “The next few weeks will be an absolutely crucial time in this public health crisis. We’re seeing a worryingly high level of cases. And, as we reported yesterday, new variants are making up an increasing share of those cases – over 70 percent of all specimens sequenced for the most recent week. The next few weeks will be an absolutely crucial time in this public health crisis. As the weather gets nicer, our vaccine supply increases, and our historic vaccination campaign ramps up to an even higher level, we must continue to follow the public health guidance we’ve been talking about for so long.”

More from Around New York