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‘We never seen this before’: Omicron fears spark huge testing lines across the city

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New Yorkers were standing in long lines for Covid tests on Thursday, as new daily cases jumped 26 percent and the daily positivity rate doubling over the course of only three days, with the Omicron variant to blame for the worsening spike. 

Jay Varma, senior public health advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, described the situation as a rarity on Twitter Thursday. 

‘Um, we’ve never seen this before in NYC. Test positivity doubling in three days,’ he said.

He noted the city’s positivity rate from December 9 to December 12, pointing out that it had doubled from 3.9 percent to 7.8 percent.

‘Note: Test % is only for PCR & NYC does more per capita daily than most places ~67K PCR/day + 19K [reported] antigen over past few days,’ he added. 

Long lines were seen across all five boroughs as people waited to get tested, despite the city being 81.5 per cent fully-vaccinated, with 16.5 per cent of residents also having their booster.  

People line up for a Covid test in Times Square on Thursday

People line up for a Covid test in Times Square on Thursday

Long lines of people waiting for a Covid test are seen in Brooklyn on Thursday

Long lines of people waiting for a Covid test are seen in Brooklyn on Thursday

People line up in Greenwich Village, near some of the NYU buildings, on Thursday

People line up in Greenwich Village, near some of the NYU buildings, on Thursday

Jay Varma, senior public health advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, described the sharp increase of positivity rate as something unseen before in New York City

Jay Varma, senior public health advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, described the sharp increase of positivity rate as something unseen before in New York City

Unvaccinated people are being hit especially hard by this surge, with official city data showing that 804.46 out of every 100,000 testing positive for the virus during the week that ended on December 5 – nearly doubling from 415.99 cases per 100,000 a week earlier.

According to city data, 96.81 our of every 100,000 vaccinated residents tested positive that week.

Gerlan Suela, a Healthline Force employee administering tests in Astoria, Queens on Thursday told The New York Post that business was booming at his plastic bubble on Steinway Street.

‘Normally we have 25 to 30 people per day but this morning, in just an hour, I had more than 50 people,’ he said.

‘I started swabbing at 8:30 a.m. I ran out in an hour. I waited an hour to get restocked.’ 

Restaurant and nightclub manager Sunny Ahmad, 24, told the paper he waited 45 minutes at one site, only to find out that rapid test weren’t available there.

Ahmad estimated he’d have to wait another hour to get tested but said: ‘It’s worth it.’

‘I do it twice a week, not because of my job requirement but for my own safety and to protect my family,’ he said.

In Brooklyn, a testing site in Williamsburg had lines around the block at lunchtime, as people checked their status. 

In Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, the LabQ Diagnostics mobile testing center at West Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue had run out of rapid tests by mid-afternoon on Thursday. 

Marcos Vizcarrondo told the Post he was due to fly abroad on Saturday, ahead of a wedding on December 26.

He spent the weekend with friends who have since tested positive. 

‘I’ll be so pissed if I can’t travel,’ he said. 

In the Financial District, a man who works in the area was among about 50 people waiting to get tested in a tent run by EZ Test NY at Wall Street and Broadway.

‘I’m traveling for the holidays so I am trying to take a quick test – but this doesn’t really seem quick at all,’ he told The Post.

‘I’m going out of the country and with this new variant that’s out now, I am definitely nervous. 

‘It just never ends.’  

The city is also now recording 53.75 new Covid cases per every 100,000 residents every day, according to official data – a 26 per cent increase from the 42.59 figure being reported only two days ago.

Varma also said that 7.8 per cent of Covid tests in the city were coming back positive on December 12, a two-fold increase from the 3.9 per cent figure recorded only three days earlier.

While it will take around a week to find out how many of these cases are of the Omicron or Delta virus strains, either way, cases are spiking in America’s densest city at a rate not seen previously.

CDC experts have previously estimated that 13 per cent of new COVID infections in NYC and neighboring New Jersey are being caused by Omicron – way above the national average of around four per cent. Both states are now set to become the epicenter for COVID in the US for the second time, and offer the rest of the US an insight of what to expect in the coming weeks.  

This surge also comes just 11 days before strict mandates announced by de Blasio earlier this month go into effect on December 27, and days after a new statewide mask order began enforcement on Monday.

During the week that ended December 5, the most recent data available from the city, 804 out of every 100,000 unvaccinated New Yorkers tested positive for the virus (purple) and 97 of every 100,000 vaccinate residents (orange)

During the week that ended December 5, the most recent data available from the city, 804 out of every 100,000 unvaccinated New Yorkers tested positive for the virus (purple) and 97 of every 100,000 vaccinate residents (orange)

New York City was the first place in the U.S. to get hammered by the original Covid wave back in March of 2020, and the situation in the city proved to be a sign of things to come for everyone else.

The unprecedented rise in cases in the over recent days could also be a sign to the rest of the nation how quickly the Omicron variant can spread – and how brutal a winter it may be for the U.S.

The city is currently averaging 2,900 cases every day, and the state as a whole have sequenced 50 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant – only trailing Texas.

Omicron also accounts for around one percent of sequenced cases from the city, the department reports, although the CDC estimates that the true figure is 13 times higher. NY city officials also say says that ten percent of new cases in the city are being sequenced.

New York City’s health department told DailyMail.com that over 1.5 million residents had received a booster as of Thursday afternoon, which is around 18 per cent of the city’s total population.

Early data on the Omicron variant, which was first discovered in late November by South African officials, shows that it can evade protection provided by the initial vaccine regimens.

Both Pfizer and Moderna – manufacturers of the U.S.’s most popular vaccines – both revealed data showing their booster shots do re-establish protection against the variant.

With more than four out of every five New Yorkers un-boosted, a vast majority of the city is vulnerable to Omicron. 

With many also protected from Delta by the vaccine, the stage is set for the new strain to become dominant in the city.

The surge in cases comes just as a new in-door mask mandate goes into effect across the state.

Starting Monday, New Yorkers are required to wear a mask in all in-door public spaces that do not require proof of vaccine to enter.

Even stricter measures are coming to the city in two weeks as well. At the start of December, Mayor de Blasio announced a private sector vaccine mandate and new requirements to enter some venues starting on December 27.

Starting then, all private sector employees who are working in-person must be fully vaccinated to continue on-site work. 

Also, anyone over the age of five must show proof of being fully vaccinated – two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna shots or one shot of the J&J vaccine – to enter dining, fitness or entertainment venues.

The mayor will leave office a few days later on January 1, though, and his successor, Eric Adams, has not yet said whether he plans to leave the mandate in place.

Nationwide, cases numbers are continuing to grow as well, and this may only be the start of an Omicron fueled Covid wave.

As of Thursday afternoon, the U.S. is recording 121,188 new cases and 1,302 deaths every day – increases of 40 percent and 34 percent respectively over the past two weeks.

The Omicron variant accounted for 2.9 percent of new Covid cases last week, up seven fold from only two weeks before.

Experts believe the variant will be the nation’s dominant Covid strain anywhere from within the next few weeks to the next few months.

Omicron is ‘markedly resistant’ to COVID vaccines and boosters shots may only give ‘slight protection’, Columbia University study finds as US cases of the variant soar by 32 per cent over 24 hours

Columbia University researchers found that COVID-19 Omicron is noticeably resistant to vaccines and that boosters may not provide adequate protection just as US cases of the variant soared by 32 per cent in the last 24 hours. 

In a study published Wednesday by Dr. David Ho and 20 other researchers, the scientists discovered that Omicron’s ‘extensive’ mutations can ‘greatly compromise’ all major COVID-19 vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca – even neutralizing them. 

The report also found that while booster shots provided an additional layer of protection, the variant ‘may still pose a risk’ for those who get the third shot.’ 

‘These findings are in line with emerging clinical data on the Omicron variant demonstrating higher rates of reinfection and vaccine breakthroughs,’ the scientists wrote. 

‘Even a third booster shot may not adequately protect against Omicron infection.’ 

Columbia researchers found that all four major COVID-19 vaccines (L-R) Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZenca failed to consistently provide adequate protection against the Omicron variant. Booster shot protection sometimes fell just above the line of acceptance

Columbia researchers found that all four major COVID-19 vaccines (L-R) Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZenca failed to consistently provide adequate protection against the Omicron variant. Booster shot protection sometimes fell just above the line of acceptance

The study looked at the effectiveness of each major vaccine against the Omicron variant, finding several cases where they failed to provide the needed protection against infection. 

 While the booster shots proved to be overall consistent, some recorded instanced put it right at the threshold of actually being effective. 

Columbia University Professor Dr. David Ho

Columbia University Professor Dr. David Ho

Ho and the Columbia research team, who worked along side the University of Hong Kong, said the study delivers a grave warning about the future of COVID and its variants. 

‘It is not too far-fetched to think that this [COVID-19] is now only a mutation or two away from being pan-resistant to current antibodies,’ the researchers wrote. 

‘We must devise strategies that anticipate the evolutional direction of the virus and develop agents that target better conserved viral elements.’  

The warning came as confirmed US Omicron cases jumped by a third overnight, from 241 on Wednesday to 319 on Thursday. But experts have warned those are the tip of the iceberg, and that American cases likely already number in the tens of thousands.

Scientists warned that COVID variants could soon undermine current vaccines and immunities

Scientists warned that COVID variants could soon undermine current vaccines and immunities

White House COVID tsar Dr. Anthony Fauci even remarked on the variant’s ‘extraordinary’ ability to spread, before revealing that cases will double every three days.  

Immunologists have also forecast a potential triple-whammy of Omicron, Delta and regular flu infections this winter. T

wo doctors interviewed by DailyMail.com said those who haven’t received a booster shot should consider returning to Spring 2020-style self-isolation, when COVID’s Alpha variant raged through the US, and no vaccines were available.

Dr Anthony Fauci (pictured), the nation's top infectious disease expert told Good Morning America on Thursday that Omicron transmits very efficiently, and the current outbreaks overseas are signs of things to come for the U.S. if more people do not get boosted

Dr Anthony Fauci (pictured), the nation’s top infectious disease expert told Good Morning America on Thursday that Omicron transmits very efficiently, and the current outbreaks overseas are signs of things to come for the U.S. if more people do not get boosted

Speaking on Good Morning America on Thursday, Fauci also confirmed Omicron was on track to be the dominant Covid strain in America within weeks.

He said: ‘Certainly what [Omicron] is showing us in other countries [is that it spreads faster than other variants] and I believe soon in our own country.

‘It has an extraordinary ability to transmit efficiently and spread. It has what we call a doubling time of around three days.

‘And if you do the math on that, if you have just a couple of percentage of the isolates being Omicron, very soon it’s going to be the dominant variant. We’ve seen that in South Africa, we’re seeing it in the U.K. and I’m absolutely certain that’s what we’re going to be seeing here relatively soon.’

The doubling time of three days is slightly longer than the 2.5 days reported by British and South African health officials. On Thursday, the UK recorded its second-consecutive day of record infections – 88,376 – 24 hours after Wednesday’s total of 78,610. That is a 74 per cent jump in a week, with 15 people who’ve been infected with Omicron so-far hospitalized in the UK.

The US is much larger, with most of its landmass not as densely populated as the UK or South Africa.

But Omicron is believed to represent up to 13 per cent of new diagnoses in New Jersey and New York – states with extremely well-populated areas – giving a possible early taste of what’s to come with the new strain. 

Fauci continues to urge Americans to get vaccinated, and boosted, to protect themselves from the virus, especially now with the new threat of Omicron circulating. A total of 16.5 per cent of Americans have so far had the booster shot. 

‘We need to do everything that we have been talking about up to now, and even more so,’ he said.  

He spoke hours after the CDC agency released forecasts on Wednesday night showing that weekly Covid cases will increase by 55 percent to 1.3 million per week – or 185,714 per day – by Christmas. 

It also predicted deaths with jump by 73 percent to up to 15,600 per day by early January – or 2,228 deaths per day.

Some of that predicted surge is already appearing in parts of the country, with Florida revealing 6,381 new cases on Thursday – the state’s largest single day Covid increase since September.

The Delta variant is still the dominant Covid strain in the U.S., accounting for around 97 percent of sequenced cases. 

Omicron is quickly making up ground, though, with the newly discovered variant jumping seven-fold in a week from making up 0.4 percent of cases to 2.9 percent of case, according to the most recent CDC data. 

The graphs show the amount of the coronavirus detected in human bronchial cells (left) and lung cells (right) 24 and 48 hours after coming into contact with the original strain of the virus (pink), Delta (orange) and Omicron (red). There was 70 times more Omicron recorded in the bronchus — the main pipe connecting the airways and lungs — compared to previous strains, but 10 times less virus in the lungs when compared to the original version and Delta. Experts from the University of Hong Kong said this suggests the virus is more transmissible but may cause less severe illness

The graphs show the amount of the coronavirus detected in human bronchial cells (left) and lung cells (right) 24 and 48 hours after coming into contact with the original strain of the virus (pink), Delta (orange) and Omicron (red). There was 70 times more Omicron recorded in the bronchus — the main pipe connecting the airways and lungs — compared to previous strains, but 10 times less virus in the lungs when compared to the original version and Delta. Experts from the University of Hong Kong said this suggests the virus is more transmissible but may cause less severe illness

Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, has warned of a nightmare scenario where Delta, Omicron and regular seasonal flu could combine to inflict the winter from hell on US hospitals already struggling to cope with an influx of patients. 

She told CNN: ‘It’s the combination. It’s kind of the perfect storm of public health impacts here with Delta already impacting many areas of the country and jurisdictions. We don’t want to overwhelm systems more.’ 

Early data also shows that people who are only fully vaccinated, but have not yet received their booster, are still extremely vulnerable to the virus, with Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot offering effectively no protection. 

Booster shots have been deemed effective against the variant, though, with both Moderna and Pfizer revealing data in recent days showing their vaccines will cause massive increases in antibody levels and up to 75 per cent protection from Covid symptoms.

But confusion remains about just how effective boosters are against a strain that was only identified after Americans began receiving them en-masse.

A new study by Columbia University in New York, published on Thursday, said: ‘Even serum from persons vaccinated and boosted with mRNA-based vaccines exhibited substantially diminished neutralizing activity against (omicron),’

Dr Chris Thompson (pictured), an infectious disease expert at Loyola University of Maryland, said that Americans who have not yet been boosted should bring back some early-pandemic habits

Dr Chris Thompson (pictured), an infectious disease expert at Loyola University of Maryland, said that Americans who have not yet been boosted should bring back some early-pandemic habits

Only around 16.5 percent of Americans have received the additional vaccine dose so far though – as they were not widely available until late November – meaning that more than 80 percent of Americans are at risk from Omicron.

Dr Chris Thompson is an infectious disease expert at Loyola University of Maryland. He told DailyMail.com on Thursday that people who have not received their booster dose yet may want to bring back some early pandemic habits like social distancing, masking, frequent hand washing and more.

‘The data that I’ve seen says that you’re about 33 percent protected after a two dose regimen of either of the mRNA vaccines [the Pfizer or Moderna shots] and we don’t have good data from Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine yet. Then if you get your booster you look like you get back up into the 75 percent protection range and for preventing disease’

Whether Delta or Omicron, U.S. is experiencing yet another surge of Covid cases during the holiday season. The nation is recording 121,188 new cases every day – a 40 percent increase over the past two weeks. Deaths are making a sharp rise as well, up 34 percent to 1,302 per week. 

The number of Americans hospitalized with the virus increased over the past 14 days as well, up 21 percent to 68,079.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that the situation will only worsen.

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