NYC Mayor Adams promises ‘new weapons’ in fight against COVID surge, defends dropping color-coded alert system

NYC Mayor Adams promises ‘new weapons’ in fight against COVID surge, defends dropping color-coded alert system

Mayor Adams vowed Thursday to replace his administration’s color-coded coronavirus alert system with a set of “new weapons” in the face of yet another wave of COVID cases descending upon New York City.

Speaking at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Hospital, a COVID-19 epicenter in the early days of the pandemic, Adams said the color-coded system is not effective against the city’s current surge in infections.

“The color-coded system was fighting an old war,” said Adams, who was flanked by nurses and doctors from the hospital. “So we’re not going to hold on to something that’s an old weapon, merely because we have it. No, we’re going to create new weapons to fight this new war.”

Adams did not elaborate on what shape the “new weapons” will take or how soon to expect them. But he said he plans on “bringing in experts from all across the globe” to help devise them.

“Our goal is to make sure that what we put in place is going to stem the infections, keep down hospitalizations and most important keep down those who are dying,” he said.

Adams launched the now-rescinded color-coded system in March, arguing it would help the city quickly know what to do in the event of future coronavirus outbreaks.

Based on detailed infection and hospitalization thresholds, the system had four different risk tiers — low, medium, high and very high — and each category came with a set of recommendations for what individuals and the city government should consider doing to fight back.

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But even as the city entered the “high” bracket in May, City Hall did not follow recommendations to reinstate vaccine and mask mandates for certain indoor public activities and spaces.

Last week, the administration removed the guidance altogether from its Health Department website and replaced it with a note saying: “We are re-evaluating the city’s COVID Alert system. Check back here for updates in the coming weeks.”

Throughout New York State, there has been a sharp uptick in cases over the past few weeks due to BA.5, a highly contagious subvariant of the omicron COVID-19 strain that appears exceedingly capable of infecting fully vaccinated people.

On Wednesday, the city’s weeklong test positivity average reached 14%, the highest level since January, according to city data, indicating that the new subvariant is spreading like wildfire through communities. There’s a risk that the true infection figures are even higher, as the city has seen a steady drop in testing over the past month.

The local hospitalization rate — which public health experts view as the most troubling data point as it shows whether people are falling seriously ill — appears to be ticking up slightly as well as part of the new wave.

But Adams said the rates remain manageable and noted that city hospitals are not reporting being overburdened with COVID-19 patients.

Though BA.5 has shown to be capable of infecting vaccinated people, public health experts stress that vaccination drastically reduces the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19.

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Contrasting the latest case spike, the city’s tourism economy is showing signs of bouncing back.

According to city data, there’s been a marked increase in hotel bookings, visits to the Statue of Liberty and foot traffic in Times Square in recent months — and Adams took a victory lap over those indicators during his Maimonides visit.

“The number of tourists, we’re now predicted to receive 56 million compared to only 33 million in 2021. We’re moving in the right direction,” he said after declaring that his administration “has navigated us through the turbulent times of COVID.”

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