As the temperature drops, Covid cases are slowly ticking up across the city, with some Queens neighborhoods leading the charts.
Thanks to vaccination efforts, many ZIP codes have 90 percent of adults inoculated, and with booster shots and new antibody treatments on top of that, hospitalizations and deaths remain low.
This holiday season will therefore look slightly different from last year, when there was no vaccine available, said Dr. Teresa Amato, chairperson of emergency medicine at Northwell’s LIJ Forest Hills hospital.
“Last year, most families weighed the risks and benefits,” Amato said. “People understood that it was not a good time to gather. Now, here we are two years into the pandemic and we have to again weigh the risks and benefits.”
Time is running out to get vaccinated before the holidays if one has not received any shots yet. Getting a shot of Pfizer by Nov. 20 would help protect one for Christmastime.
Amato said that this year will be more about personal decisions and taking reasonable precautions. She encourages people to consult their doctors if they are still unvaccinated and continue with mask wearing, frequent testing and outdoor activities whenever possible.
She said that the majority of the patients she sees coming into the hospital with Covid are still not vaccinated.
Although Queens is still among the top most vaccinated boroughs, tied with Manhattan at 75 percent, some Queens ZIP codes still have the lowest rates for fully vaccinated residents, with Edgemere and Far Rockaway at only 47 percent innoculated, according to city data as of Tuesday.
It shows a stark difference with other areas of Queens like Flushing/Murray Hill/Queensboro Hill, where 99 percent of residents got their shots, tied with much of Midtown Manhattan; Elmhurst, which has a 96 percent vax rate; and Astoria/Long Island City/Sunnyside, which is at 94 percent, according to city data.
Over the past seven days, more than half of the top 15 ZIP codes with the highest percent of positive rates were in Queens.
Breezy Point was among the top with a 5 percent increase but that consisted of only five new positive cases. The Belle Harbor area followed with a 4.98 percent increase with 26 new cases.
Bayside, Bellerose, Glendale/Ridgewood and Kew Gardens Hills/Pomonok were among the highest percentages of positive cases from Nov. 7 to Nov. 13.
Glendale and Ridgewood had the second-most new cases during the week, up to 106 from 95 from last week.
Amato said one of the hardest parts for her is that most people who end up in the hospital with Covid regret not getting the vaccine. But by that point, it is too late. “It’s not a cure,” she said.
She said that the emergency room at LIJ Forest Hills is not currently giving booster shots but that may change.
“Discussions for boosters have been getting some interest so we’re working with pharmacy and leadership teams,” she said.
The emergency department at the hospital is, however, using its space to offer monoclonal antibody treatment. It is not given through the emergency room but instead done as an outpatient service by appointment.
Early evidence suggests that mAb treatment can reduce the amount of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid, in a person’s system, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The treatment, which has been approved for emergency use by the FDA, is intended to help vulnerable populations.
Amato said LIJ Forest Hills is one of the few Queens locations offering the treatment and that it gives about eight of them a week.
When it comes to the kids getting shots, she said, especially in time for the holidays, she recommends parents speaking to their pediatricians.
“Kids can transmit it to a more vulnerable person,” she said. “They may not get sick themselves but they could pass it on. It can help your community at large to get your child vaccinated.”
Two Queens schools have closed over the last two weeks due to outbreaks.
Some of the mass vaccination sites are now administering shots to children ages 5 to 11. Since they became eligible, over 50,000 kids have gotten their shots.
Aqueduct Race Track in South Ozone Park is one of those locations. Others near Queens include Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and SUNY Old Westbury on Long Island.