They crept to the surface as the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout New York City, scurrying out of subterranean nests into the open air, feasting on a smorgasbord of scraps in streets, parks, and stacks of curbside garbage. As diners disregarded the indoors for outdoor dining, so did the city's rats. Now city-data suggest that sightings are more systematic than they've been in a decade. Through April, people have reported some 7,400 rat sightings to the city’s 311 service recommendation line. That’s up from about 6,150 during the same period last year and up by more than 60% from approximately the first four months of 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. [tweet_embed] May 13, 2022[/tweet_embed] In each of the first four months of 2022, the number of sightings was the highest recorded since at least 2010, the first year online records are available. By comparison, there were about 10,500 sightings in all 2010 and 25,000 such reports in all of last year (sightings are most recurring during warm months). Whether the rat population has increased is debatable, but the pandemic might have made the situation more observable. With more people spending time outdoors as whether grow warmer, will rat sightings continue to surge? “That depends on how much food is available to them and where,” stated Matt Frye, a pest management specialist for New York, based at Cornell University. While a comeback to pre-pandemic routines “is exciting after two years of COVID-imposed lifestyle changes,” Frye wrote, “it also means business as usual for rat problems directly tied to human behavior.” [tweet_embed] May 13, 2022[/tweet_embed] Rats have been a crisis in New York City since its founding. Every new era of leaders has tried to find a more effective way of regulating the rodent population and strumbled to show results. When Mayor Eric Adams was borough president of Brooklyn, he aggravated animal rights activists — and worried the stomachs of some journalists — by demonstrating a trap that used a bucket filled with a vinegary, toxic soup to drown rats enticed by the scent of food. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio spent tens of millions of dollars on attempts to diminish the rat population in targeted neighborhoods through more routine trash pickup, more aggressive housing inspections and replacing dirt basement floors in some apartment buildings with ones made of concrete. The city also created a program to use dry ice to asphyxiate rats in their burrows, once displaying the technique for reporters at an event where workers chased — but never caught — one of the fleeing varmints. [tweet_embed] May 13, 2022[/tweet_embed] During a current news conference in Times Square, Adams declared the city’s latest effort: padlocked curbside trash bins intended to reduce the big piles of garbage bags that turn into a buffet for rodents. “You’re tired of the rodents, tired of the smell, and tired of seeing food, waste, and spillage,” the mayor declared. Rats not only strike fear among the easily squeamish, but they can also be a public health crisis. Last year, at least 13 people were hospitalized — one died — because of leptospirosis, which attacks the kidneys and liver. Most human infections are associated with rats.