By Dave Carlin

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the two states with the highest spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant are New York and New Jersey.

Fast-paced New York City is seeing a faster spread of the new Omicron variant, compared to the vast majority of the country, according to just-released CDC findings.

READ MORE: Some Women Suffering From Long COVID Say Extreme Hair Loss Is Among Symptoms

As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reports, not just the city, but all of New York and New Jersey ramping up cases of the variant.

The CDC says the Omicron variant is detected in 3% of samples on average nationwide, but for New York and New Jersey, the Omicron rate is 13% for both, about four times the national average.

“New York is always going to be packed, like, no matter what happens in the world, so you just have to be responsible for your own protection,” said Humaira Younossi, of New Castle, Delaware.

COVID VACCINE

“I am a tourist here, and I did not know that statistic,” Nashville resident Whitney Musser said. “There are so many people out and about in crowds. We just walked from Times Square and it’s packed with people shoulder to shoulder.”

There is some promising news in the fight against the coronavirus. Pfizer says it has an antiviral pill it says is highly effective treatment, reducing hospitalization and death by 89% in high risk unvaccinated adults if it is given within three days of the first CIVD symptoms.

The research indicates the pills, taken in a five-day course, reduce people’s chances of developing serious disease and winding up in hospitals.

READ MORE: Prosecutors: Long Island Nurses Julie Devuono, Marissa Urraro Forged COVID Vaccine Cards, Entered Info Into State Database

“For sure to stay out of there. I think more people could end up dying in there than being at home and being treated the right way,” Midtown resident Robert McWilliams said. “I think it’s a step forward.”

The antiviral pill is awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

This week, Pfizer also released data showing its vaccine is 70% effective at preventing Omicron-associated hospitalization but only 33% effective in preventing new infections.

More insight on the effectiveness of Moderna vaccines is expected later this week.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Michelle Powell, an educator from Wakefield, the Bronx, was Pfizer all the way — two shots and the Pfizer booster.

“I’m thinking next time I’ll probably get a Moderna booster to just to make sure I have all the cocktails in my body to properly fight anything that’s going to try and invade me,” Powell said.

The good news about the Omicron variant is research continues to point to it being less severe, in terms of symptoms and disease. Health experts say to avoid it, vaccinations, including boosters, are the ticket.

MORE NEWS: New York City Schools Announce New COVID Isolation Rules Starting Next Week

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Dec. 14.

Dave Carlin