One-day snapshots of virus statistics can be an unreliable way to gauge trends, but the new record punctuates a steady increase that began in the western part of the state in late October, and kicked off in New York City last week.

New York state on Friday reported that more than 21,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 the previous day, the highest single-day total of new cases since testing for the virus became widely available.

One-day snapshots of virus statistics can be an unreliable way to gauge trends, but the new record punctuates a steady increase that began in the western part of the state in late October, and kicked off in New York City last week.

Less than half of the positive results were in the city, where lines were growing at test stations and some Broadway shows and the Rockettes Christmas show canceled shows due to an outbreak of illness among cast members.

Dennis Nash, executive director of the City University of New York’s Institute of Applied Sciences in Population Health, said the sharp rise in infections should be a major concern, but it was inevitable, given the rapid spread of the omicron variant. “We were really heading into an increase in winter with Delta, which is very concerning in and of itself,” Nash said. “But then you put on top of that the new omicron variant, which is more transmissible from an infection point of view,” he said, noting that current vaccines may not be able to contain the new, “more invasive” variant.

Nearly 10,300 of the state’s reported positive tests have been in the city, roughly equal to its share of the state’s population. Statewide, New York averaged 13,257 tests per day during the seven-day period that ended Thursday. This is a 71% increase from two weeks ago. The previous highest level of positive tests in the state came in a single day on January 14, 2021, when fewer than 20,000 people tested positive.

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