New York’s virus surge has leaders balancing health and political risks.

Caseloads shattering records almost daily. Hospitalizations creeping upward. New York City residents spending hours in line as they seek coronavirus tests in unprecedented numbers.

Just a year ago, a surge in virus cases like the one now coursing through New York would most likely have sent the state into lockdown, with government officials halting indoor dining, closing offices and shuttering schools as they urged residents to stay home.

But this week Gov. Kathy Hochul appraised the situation in what is again among the nation’s pre-eminent Covid-19 hot spots, with a record-setting 29,000 new cases reported on Wednesday, and advised vaccinated New Yorkers to remain calm and soldier on.

“Our goal is to not let anything shut down,” Ms. Hochul said, urging vaccination and other, more modest, precautions. “Isolation is terrible. It’s just so excruciating what people had to go through last year.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and his imminent successor, Eric Adams, have been just as unequivocal in New York City: “Adamantly, I feel this: No more shutdowns,” Mr. de Blasio said on Tuesday.

The difference in tone and policy between now and last December is stark, and Democrats, including Ms. Hochul and President Biden, have been eager to accentuate it. They are seeking to balance managing another huge health challenge with reassuring an anxious public that they are not interested in revisiting polarizing and politically risky lockdowns that could undermine the continuing recovery.

“This is not March of 2020,” Ms. Hochul said on Sunday, in a message Mr. Biden echoed. “We are not defenseless.”


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