NEW YORK (PIX11) — With a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine is calling for a renewed push to get New Yorkers vaccinated. The campaign would include restoring the $100 cash incentive for those who get their primary doses or the booster shot.
Infections are climbing, as the city-wide positivity rate has now gone over 15%. City Health Department data shows Woodhaven, Queens is leading the way. The neighborhood has a 27.1% positivity rate.
Levine warned of another uptick.
“Unfortunately, you also see it now being reflected in hospitalizations,” said Levine. “We are over a thousand hospitalizations with COVID now for the first time since February.”
A new omicron variant, called BA.5, is to blame. The variant is accounting for the majority of new cases nationwide and in New York City. BA.5 is considered the most highly contagious strain to date.
While hospitalizations are up, it’s still far less than previous surges. Vaccinations are softening the blow and lessening the severity of symptoms for those who do get infected.
Levine said where we lag behind is in boosters.
“Vaccinations have really grounded to a halt since January,” said Levine. “At this point, the rate of first doses in New York City among adults is over 90%, but over half of those people never got around to getting their booster shot.”
Monday morning, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the launch of a new state hotline. The aim is to support New Yorkers who don’t have a health care provider. If you come down with COVID, you can call 1-888-TREAT-NY to set up a telehealth visit and be advised of a treatment plan.
City health officials have been highly criticized for the closure of testing locations as another wave of infections appears. Dr. Ashwin Vasan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, puts the blame on the federal government.
“Congress must fund emergency support we’ve been getting the last two years in order for us to maintain the level of testing and level of treatment,” said Vasan.