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Coronavirus Updates: NY Case Of UK Variant Traced Back To Travel – Gothamist

This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Wednesday, January 6th, 2021. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.

New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and gyms. Citing rising hospitalization rates, Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended indoor dining in NYC starting December 14th. After being shut down for several weeks, NYC public schools partially reopened on December 7th for 3K-5th grade students, with students with special needs returning on December 10th. Certain parts of Staten Island remain under a zoned shutdown.

Get answers to questions you may have with our “Ask An Epidemiologist” series, or learn more about NYC COVID-19 testing options with our explainer. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.

Here’s the latest:


1:27 p.m.: The first New York State case of the virus variant from the United Kingdom was traced back to travel there, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday.

A jewelry store employee in Saratoga Springs who had not traveled to the UK became sick with COVID-19, and upon testing for the variant, state health officials found he had contracted the new, highly transmissible version of the virus. It was suspected at first to be community spread.

But following contact tracing efforts, officials determined that someone in the contact tracing circle had traveled to the United Kingdom, according to State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.

Cuomo implored the federal government to issue a test mandate for all travelers entering the country from elsewhere, similar to what other countries have done. He sent a letter to the federal government requesting that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection implement testing requirements, or otherwise allow New York to do so using Port Authority personnel.

“If we had tested people from the UK before they got here, we wouldn’t have had the UK travel spread. It’s common sense,” Cuomo said during a press conference on Wednesday. “The UK variant got here, because I believe the country was slow.”

“We are literally playing Russian roulette with it.”

Among 5,000 tests for the variant in NY, one has been found. Three others were tested for the variant as well, but it is not clear what their results were. For comparison, the state tests about 200,000 people a day for COVID-19. The state’s Wadsworth lab in Albany can run UK variant tests in 40 hours, compared to two weeks at federal labs.

A study by British scientists released in December estimated that the UK variant was 56% more contagious than the most prevalent version of COVID-19.

A sign for NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, one of the sites for coronavirus public vaccinations, hangs above a window at 227 Madison Street in the Lower East Side.

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A sign for NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, one of the sites for coronavirus public vaccinations, hangs above a window at 227 Madison Street in the Lower East Side.


John Angelillo/UPI/Shutterstock

Vaccinations To Start For NYPD Today As De Blasio Announces Two Mass Vaccinations Sites

12:15 p.m. New York City is set to begin vaccinating members of its police force as well as home healthcare aides, widening the pool of those eligible for the coronavirus vaccinations, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

During his morning press conference, de Blasio also announced that the city will open on Sunday mass vaccination centers at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Bathgate Industrial Park in the Bronx. Those are the first two of five large-scale vaccination sites that the city is planning to launch and operate round the clock.

De Blasio cited the latest ramp up in vaccinations to the state’s authorization on Tuesday of an expansion in the number of eligible frontline and healthcare workers. Another 12 vaccine hubs located at various public high schools in all five boroughs will open by next Friday. The operating hours at those sites, however, will be more limited.

New York City has already designated more than a dozen public hospital sites as well as federally qualified health centers and urgent care clinics to provide vaccinations.

Vaccinations at all sites are by appointment only.

A total of 25,000 members of the NYPD can opt to take the vaccine; the city is hoping to immunize 10,000 by the end of this week.

Criticized for a slow rollout, the mayor once again implored Governor Andrew Cuomo to allow the city to vaccinate those over the age of 75.

“This city needs the freedom to vaccinate the highest number of people possible,” de Blasio said.

Marking yet another feud between the two leaders, Cuomo has said that vaccine supplies are still insufficient and that many hospitals have yet to utilize all of their doses. In New York City’s 11 public hospitals, about 30% of healthcare workers have initially declined to get vaccinated.

Nonetheless, fresh off the euphoria of a potential Democratic victory in two key Georgia Senate races, the mayor sounded notably more energized.

“I am feeling bubbly today,” he said, referring to the prospect of a Democrat-controlled Senate.

But the latest virus data suggests the city is still facing a precarious moment of the second wave. New York City’s seven-day positivity rate is now at 9.25%. On Wednesday, the mayor reported 279 new hospitalizations for confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases, up from 211 the prior day.

LA Hospitals Are Rationing Oxygen, Arizona Has Highest COVID Rate In The World

A fire department medical truck accesses the emergency parking lot of the LAC USC Hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles.

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A fire department medical truck accesses the emergency parking lot of the LAC USC Hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles.


ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Facing a record number of new coronavirus patients, Los Angeles hospitals have instructed emergency crews to ration oxygen and not to transport those whose chances of survival are low.

“It is getting harder and harder for healthcare workers to care for those coming to the hospital with gunshot wounds, heart attacks, strokes and injuries from car accidents,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis. “Hospitals are declaring internal disasters and having to open church gyms to serve as hospital units.”

L.A. County is now averaging 183 virus deaths a day, according to the Los Angeles Times. More than 75% of all patients in the county’s ICUs have coronavirus.

The crisis in the country’s most populous county reflects the toll of the second wave, a surge that many health experts predicted after many states loosened restrictions in the summer. On Tuesday, hospitals nationwide recorded more than 130,000 coronavirus patients, marking another all-time high. This time around, parts of the south and west have been hardest hit by outbreaks.

Arizona recently earned the distinction of having the world’s highest rate of coronavirus infections per capita, according to a data tracking site. The state is averaging more than 8,000 cases a day, double its initial peak in the summer.

“Most Americans don’t want to know, don’t want to acknowledge, don’t really want to recognize and certainly — even as it’s descending upon us — do not appear to understand the dire circumstances that we are facing,” Dr. Marjorie Bessel, the chief clinical officer at Banner Health, Arizona’s largest hospital network, told the New York Times.

Hospitalizations have been rising in New York as well. On Tuesday, the total number of those hospitalized for the virus statewide grew to more than 8,500, a jump of more than 300 from the previous day. During the summer, the level of hospitalizations had dropped to as low as 400.

The seven-day average COVID testing positivity rate for the state is now nearly 8%.

Cuomo has said that he would order another shutdown should any region’s hospitals reach 90% capacity. New York City currently has 70% of its hospital beds occupied, according to state health data.

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