Omicron turns off the lights of New York A leap of infections but no lockdown

from Massimo Gaggi

A month ago the mayor promised Times Square celebrations for the holidays. Now the fear is back

only a month has passed since Mayor Bill De Blasio triumphantly announced that with green pass checks at the entrances, this year New Yorkers would return to celebrate the New Year en masse in Times Square, New Year’s Eve. But today,hit by the Omicron wave, the city slips back into the nightmare of the pandemic


: everywhere endless lines of citizens waiting to take a test in the tents and medical vans located in dozens of intersections in the City MD clinics, in the equipped pharmacies. Waiting sometimes for hours with people migrating from one testing center to another driven by cellphone apps that promise shorter queues.

Numbers are scary – beat the absolute record of infections of last January for two consecutive days (22,478 those registered yesterday) – but the authorities try to keep their nerve since, compared to the past, the majority of the vaccinated population and the Omicron variant, although extremely contagious, seems to cause milder diseases than those of the previous waves of the pandemic . When asked if he intends to close the schools, the mayor, now in the last days of his mandate, replies with a sharp no.

But, even if for now there are no orders for the closure of restaurants, theaters and schools, the lights of the city begin to go out spontaneously, due to the spread of infections and fears: ten of the 32 Broadway musicals (including the famous Hamilton, Tina, and Moulin Rouge) have been suspended due to the contagions between technicians and dance clubs. The season of the Rockettes, the corps de ballet that since 1932 has celebrated the Christmas holidays with its dances at Radio City Music Hall, been completely erased. Companies that have begun to call staff back to their Manhattan offices return to the smart work from home. There Cnn closes its headquarters again and sets up small flash studios for broadcasts that can be managed remotely by technicians.

Saturday Night Live, a famous satirical show, modified at the last moment, aired without an audience, without music (no band in the studio) and with some actors replaced (the production does not talk about infections).

The restaurants remain open, but some have decided to extend the Christmas break. Something similar also happens in education: several universities, such as Cornell, have had to close their campus due to the rapid spread of the infections. Others, such as Yale in neighboring Connecticut, are formally open but students have been granted long Christmas holidays that will continue into the last days of January. As for compulsory schools, they remain active but 900 classes have been closed due to infections and 2,500 have been subjected to restrictive measures.

The city, however, remains quite lively, with intense traffic: people demoralized, exasperated by a permanent emergency that has lasted for two years, but not very frightened. He knows that the virus is circulating everywhere again, but also that it is far less lethal. The most pessimistic experts predict that at the end of January, America could have half a million or even a million infections a day, bad hospitalizations remain at relatively low levels as do deathsthe. A year ago in this period in the hospitals of the State of New York there were 8,800 patients fighting with the coronavirus, today they are less than half: 3,839.

It remains a mystery, however, why the states of the North East of America, from New York to Connecticut, from Massachusetts to Rhode Island to Vermont (which are the most vaccinated in America), they are also those who register the greatest number of infections. Perhaps it depends on climatic factors. But it is also true that here the pathologies are fewer
serious and hospitals are not under pressure for now while other states, from Ohio to Kansas, are already in emergency. And Nebraska warns that it will soon have to ration treatment: that is, decide which serious patients to admit to the limited places in intensive care.


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