I know, you don't want to hear this, but COVID-19 positivity rates across New York State are quietly increasing ever since we seemingly declared the end of the pandemic. I totally get it, after a very rough holiday season, we needed to feel victorious. We buckled down and put our masks back on, increased our distances again, got vaccinated, 'boostered,' and swore we would behave if we could just have outside and our freedom back. On February 9, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the statewide mask mandate would end, effective February 10,

We had a mask or vax requirement for businesses. It was an emergency temporary measure put in place literally two months ago. And at this time we say that it is the right decision to lift this mandate for indoor businesses and let counties, cities, and businesses to make their own decisions on what they want to do with respect to mask or the vaccination requirement. Given the declining cases, given declining hospitalizations, that is why we feel comfortable to lift this in effect tomorrow.

But here's the thing about a virus like COVID-19 - it doesn't play nice or fair. COVID hadn't really gone anywhere, we just became concerned again when we had positivity rates of over 20 percent around the state.

Now that we've been 'living our best life' again, it looks like COVID-19 is quietly making a comeback in some regions. No need to ring the alarm just yet, we are nowhere near the 7-day average positivity rates we saw during Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2021. However, I do think it's worth pointing out because I witnessed the quietly increasing rates that led up to that surge. No one really seemed to pay attention...until it was too late and cases were soaring again.

From Thursday, March 10, to Thursday, March 17, the statewide 7-day average COVID-19 positivity rate increased from 1.44% to 1.76%. Again, that is certainly not a significant enough increase to put drastic protocols in place, but if it becomes a trend, we could be back in trouble. Not every region has seen an increase during those dates - of the 10 regions, three have seen a slight decrease or have remained even. Here are the 7-day average positivity rates reported by the Governor's Office in the various regions around the state:

Capital Region2.44%2.39%2.35%2.23%2.20%2.27%2.36%2.47%
Central New York4.36%4.32%4.69%4.70%5.20%5.21%5.69%5.65%
Finger Lakes2.02%1.94%2.02%2.06%2.05%2.09%2.20%2.19%
Long Island1.53%1.53%1.57%1.55%1.67%1.69%1.67%1.78%
Mohawk Valley2.18%2.30%2.40%2.37%2.43%2.70%2.75%3.02%
New York City1.00%0.92%0.96%0.96%1.23%1.28%1.28%1.33%
North Country3.14%3.14%3.16%3.10%3.24%3.34%3.49%3.54%
Southern Tier2.37%2.28%2.32%2.33%2.34%2.32%2.32%2.23%
Western New York1.86%1.83%1.83%1.81%1.86%1.79%1.82%1.85%

My point is not to be alarmist.  I just want to remind New Yorkers that the positivity rates we saw at 5%, then 10%, then 15%, and then 20%, all started with smaller increases, gradually over a couple of months. As the weather warms up, just keep in mind that we don't have a cure for COVID-19 and it's still here.  As a matter of fact, a new Omicron subvariant has been causing concern in other parts of the world,

In a number of countries, including Britain, France and Germany, case numbers are climbing as an even more contagious subvariant of Omicron, known as BA.2, takes hold.

We definitely learned throughout the pandemic that our man made borders don't mean anything to contagious viruses.

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