Home Agenda URBAN AGENDA: COVID fatigue threatens public safety

URBAN AGENDA: COVID fatigue threatens public safety

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After more than two years of the coronavirus pandemic, COVID cases are on the rise again in New York. It comes as New Yorkers seem to have let their guard downand that’s a bad omen as we prepare for the post-Labor Day and back-to-school season, when COVID infections typically spike.

With everything going on in the world – soaring food and rent prices, crazy gas prices, rising interest rates and the struggle to find enough vaccine to keep monkey pox under control – the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could just be lost in the shuffle. Yet we cannot afford to take a summer break because of the virus. Not for a moment.

Case numbers are quite high. Since April, the positivity rate has jumped in the five boroughs to reach 20%, which meets federal requirements guidelines for risk of serious illness. Even that number is likely an underestimate because so many people are using home testing and those results don’t count nationally.

More than 1,000 New Yorkers were hospitalized with COVID earlier this month. And while it’s understandable that after 28 months of this pandemic many have grown weary, we need to come out of coronavirus fatigue, as evidenced by the low number of face coverings you see on New York’s buses and subways. York. The New York City Department of Health is once again urging New Yorkers to mask in indoor public places and in crowded areas outdoors. New Yorkers should follow suit.

It hasn’t helped New York State, at a time when we should rededicate ourselves to taking our health and that of our neighbors seriously, hasn’t publicly addressed the idea of ​​a mask mandate. renewed. And just as cases were skyrocketing, New York City quietly ended color coding alert system who warned New Yorkers when they were at greater risk of catching the virus.

The good news is that the state and city this month announcement that New York residents who test positive for COVID, regardless of income or health insurance coverage, are eligible to be evaluated for treatment by calling a hotline, 888-TREAT-NY. A telemedicine visit, operated by NYC Health + Hospitals, can include a free prescription for new, powerful, oral antiviral medicines that have been shown to reduce hospitalization for people at risk of serious illness. The Adams administration has also increased the distribution of home COVID test kits.

Additionally, now may also be the time for state and New York City health officials to start flooding the airwaves again with public service announcements about masks and testing. The city’s health experts should be visible as American adults say their confidence that medical scientists are acting in the public’s best interest is diminishing, according to a Pew Research Center survey published in February.

For many people of color, that mistrust is often down to not seeing diverse faces — or faces that look like their own — in positions of power within the public health system. It’s all the more reason for the New York City Health Department’s diverse medical leadership to appear in ads and media offering a clear narrative about the situation we find ourselves in.

And the reality is that the spikes and surges of COVID have started to melt into an ominous din. We might be in this period of heavy coronavirus infections for a while as the scary subvariants keep coming. The last – BA.4 and BA.5 – are extremely contagious. The World Health Organization warns that “the virus is circulating freely” in the United States and Europe.

Some people contract the virus for the first time; others for the second, third or more, sometimes just weeks a part. And a new sub-variant of Omicron, BA.2.75which has emerged in the United States and several parts of the world, may be able to evade immunity from vaccines and previous infections, some say scientists.

Of course we now have a arsenal powerful vaccines, boosters, antiviral pills and other treatments to stave off the worst damage of COVID. About 67% of people were fully vaccinated. Let’s hope we never go back to the panic, pain and horror of the spring of 2020, when the coronavirus swept through our city like Azreal. The ensuing chaos, sparked by the virus, has hit people of color, the poor and immigrant communities particularly hard.

Now is not the time to indulge. COVID precautions must be a permanent feature of our lives. The world today is different from the world we lived in two years ago, where we made mistakes and took what, in retrospect, were unnecessary risks.

Today, we have no choice but to accept that COVID is still among us.

David R. Jones, Esq., is president and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers for more than 175 years. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author. The Urban Agenda is available on the CSS website: www.cssny.org.