Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday that the latest health COVID-19 data suggested the omicron wave may be “leveling off,” as he continued to insist that New York City schools and businesses could safely remain open.

As of Sunday, there were 5,800 patients hospitalized citywide for coronavirus, down from 6,500 on January 11th, according to state data cited by city health officials at a news briefing Tuesday.

Adams noted that trends in hospitalizations and deaths typically lag behind cases.

“So these indicators may peak later than actual cases are being shown,” he said. “But we are winning and we're moving in the right direction.”

His remarks came during the mayor’s first official press briefing on COVID-19, two weeks into taking office amid an unprecedented surge of coronavirus cases that have resulted in business closures and plummeting school attendance. In a departure from his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, Adams allowed reporters to attend the briefing in person at City Hall, while keeping the option to ask questions virtually.

Both the mayor and the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi also pointed to a decline in reported cases. The city’s seven-day average of new cases is now under 20,000, down from a peak of nearly 43,000 earlier this month.

“We are on the downslope from the omicron summit,” said Choksi, who was among several city officials who joined the mayor at the briefing. But testing has also sharply declined, raising questions about whether the case decline is genuine or if infections are being missed. From January 8th to 18th, the daily average number of PCR and antigen tests recorded in New York City dropped by 50,000 tests.

Still, some experts are cautiously optimistic. Dr. Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at City University of New York, said decreases in the number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations were promising early signs that the surge could be subsiding.

Nash also said that the curve could merely wind up flattening. “The trends are suggestive of a precipitous decline, but there is always the possibility of a plateau at a high level and a slower decline of new infections,” he said.

One complicating factor is that the infectious period for omicron appears to be longer than with prior variants, according to recent studies. “So, many cases diagnosed 10 days ago may still be infectious,” he said, explaining that even if cases are indeed falling, the overall number of people who are infectious will decline more slowly.

That, along with the unprecedented number of cases meant that New York City “will be a high risk environment for some time.”

Adams, however, has been urging New Yorkers to get vaccinated and boosted and return to the office, while also vowing to keep schools open. On Tuesday, after a shift in policy that allowed teachers to provide remote learning for some students, David Banks, the city’s schools chancellor, said the city was “exploring” an expansion of a remote option but was not prepared to make an announcement yet.

“It is a big undertaking, even if we do it for a short period of time,” he said.

Rather, he and the mayor both said they wanted to focus on getting children to return to the classroom.

City schools have struggled with low attendance, dropping to 63% before the holiday break. On Friday, citywide school attendance was around 75%. With around 1 million students enrolled, that means that more than 200,000 children did not attend school.

Banks noted that while still low, attendance was gradually rising, and that families would send their children back to school as they grew confident that schools were safe.

“The comeback for New York and the comeback in our schools is happening,” he said.

Part of Adams’s comeback plan for the city involves setting an example for New Yorkers. At the briefing, Adams said he planned to go to a theater and a restaurant in the coming days. Hours later, during an event at the Empire State Building to boost tourism, the mayor said he would see “Tina,” a musical about the soul singer Tina Turner.