In New York, Omicron revives dark memories of a nightmarish 2020

The arrival of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in New York had people lining up for testing on December 17, 2021

With restaurants in Brooklyn closing in rapid succession and lines at Covid-19 test centers swelling by the day, fears are growing in New York of a return to the nightmare of 2020, when the city was the global epicenter of the pandemic.

In Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood alone, more than a dozen bars and restaurants have had to close temporarily amid a recent surge in infections among their workers and patrons.

“It feels very reminiscent of March 2020,” said Spencer Reiter, a 27-year-old Brooklyn resident who works in finance.

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“Seeing these lines… it’s kind of back to where we began,” Reiter said.

– Empty streets –

The megalopolis of 8.5 million people, long known as “the city that never sleeps,” felt almost deserted for weeks, its empty streets resembling something from a science fiction movie about a post-apocalyptic world.

The disease has claimed at least 34,000 lives in New York since spring 2020, and the city — especially Manhattan — has never completely regained its legendary glitter and energy of pre-Covid days.

“We are actually in the beginning again, or maybe even worse,” said Jolanta Czerlanis, a 54-year-old Brooklyn resident. She had come for testing after feeling possible Covid symptoms.

The startlingly rapid spread of Covid-19’s Omicron variant has raised grave concern across the US.

The number of new daily cases nationwide stood at 86,000 on December 1; by December 14, it had soared to 117,000, a 36 percent increase in two weeks.

– ‘Omicron happened’ –

“Omicron happened,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said recently on CNN.

De Blasio has made vaccination mandatory for all city employees and, effective December 27, for the 184,000 companies and businesses in the city’s huge private sector. It remains unclear, however, whether Adams will enforce that requirement once he takes power.

– Panic on Broadway –

As for the multi-award-winning musical “Hamilton,” it was canceled without warning Thursday night.

“We got here early this morning and the show is canceled,” he glumly told AFPTV.

But he said he fears Omicron’s arrival will provoke a new exodus of more affluent New Yorkers to the posh suburbs north of the city, just as happened in 2020 — leaving Manhattan, again, feeling like a ghost town.

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