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Reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic in Brooklyn

A year in numbers: Reflecting on the coronavirus pandemic in Brooklyn

pandemic in brooklyn
Eligible Brooklynites wait to receive a vaccine.
Photo by Dean Moses

While the city solemnly looks back at a tumultuous year marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, many are looking optimistically toward the future with vaccine distribution rapidly picking up pace and case counts beginning to fall. 

Brooklyn, however, lags behind the rest of the city in the percentage of its population who have received the lifesaving jab, recording just 12 percent of Kings Countians as fully or partially vaccinated as of March 2 — nearly one year after City Hall announced the first known case of the coronavirus in Brooklyn.

Manhattan and Staten Island, by contrast, have fully or partially inoculated 20 percent of their populations. Queens and the Bronx are also both ahead of Brooklyn, with 15 and 14 percent of their residents receiving at least one dose, respectively. 

As the city’s most populous borough, Brooklyn ranks third behind Manhattan and Queens in the total number of people vaccinated, with roughly 307,000 partially or fully inoculated. Queens leads in that category, with roughly 325,900 residents receiving at least one jab.  

The virus resulted in 7,386 confirmed deaths in Brooklyn, according to city data — many from the onset of the pandemic when hospitals were overcapacity, and an influx of bodies led to funeral homes and medical facilities scrambling to store them.

Brooklyn recorded 266 probable and confirmed coronavirus-related deaths on April 12, 2020.City of New York

At the peak of the pandemic in April, when city statistics show Brooklyn recording over 200 deaths a day, disturbing reports arose from a Flatlands funeral home where dozens of bodies were found decomposing inside U-Haul trucks that were believed to have been there for weeks. 

Since the darkest days of the pandemic last spring, coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths have plummeted to a fraction of what they were at their highest, but heath officials are still constantly monitoring the data and warning people to continue social distancing.

Brooklyn COVID rates are on the decline following a jump in cases that experts attributed to close gatherings over the holiday season. 

Epidemiologists are warning, however, that the decline in cases may be temporary, as newly discovered, highly-contagious COVID-19 variants from South Africa and the United Kingdom have shown up in New York City — potentially leading to an explosion in cases if the vaccine rollout doesn’t speed up quick enough.

Coronavirus cases in the borough drastically increased following the holiday season.City of New York

Virus transmission after the holidays recorded more cases in the borough than last spring when hospitalizations and deaths were at all-time highs — peaking on Jan. 8 with a seven-day average of 1,817 new cases. However, the recent increase is often credited to expanded access to testing and more people being tested compared to earlier in the pandemic. 

The current seven-day average for the borough is still over 1,000 new cases per day as of Feb. 27. 

Neighborhoods in southern and eastern Brooklyn suffered the worst impact of the virus in the borough, according to city data— as both comprise areas home to high senior and minority populations more vulnerable to the virus. 

The 11239 zip code in East New York records the highest death rate in New York City with 806 deaths per 100,000 people — nearly 200 more than the next highest zip code. The 11224 zip code covering parts of Brighton Beach, Coney Island and Seagate records the third-highest death rate citywide. 

Southern Brooklyn’s 11235 zip code has regularly topped the city for the highest percentage of its population testing positive for COVID, and places fourth in the city for highest percentage positive cumulatively over the past year, city statistics show. 

On the one-year anniversary of the first known case citywide, Mayor Bill de Blasio shared a positive outlook for the year ahead and suggested that the city is nearing the end of the pandemic if New Yorkers continue to stay disciplined. 

“We still have a fight ahead, but this is the last great battle against the coronavirus right now. And right now, we are fighting back, and we are winning. We will win in this city because people are doing the right thing,” de Blasio said at a morning press conference. “Folks are coming out in huge numbers to get vaccinated. Folks are still getting tested, which we need. Folks who are still wearing the masks, practicing social distancing. We’re going to do this together. We’re going to overcome this disease once and for all.”

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