Daily COVID-19 infections have doubled in the past two weeks in New York City, with the test positivity now at 1.72 percent, Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed at a press conference on Tuesday.
The Indian ‘Delta’ variant is driving this surge – it now accounts for 69 percent of new cases in the city as of July 3.
NYC leaders are focusing on vaccination rather than mask mandates because they see vaccines as ‘solving the problem’ of Covid – and do not want any other initiatives to distract from the vaccination push.
City-wide, 58 percent of New Yorkers have had at least one dose, but rates are much lower in many outer-borough neighborhoods.
Still, other health officials including former Surgeon General Jerome Adams have suggested mask mandates are necessary to beat the super-contagious Delta variant.
As the Delta variant takes over NYC, Mayor de Blasio is promoting vaccinations and shying away from a new mask mandate
New Covid cases in the city have more than doubled in the past two weeks
‘Right now, there are places where we are requiring masks,’ de Blasio said, referring to mandates on public transit, in schools, and other locations.
‘But we [at the administration] are united strongly in not wanting people to think “Oh, I need a mask, I don’t need to be vaccinated.”
‘We don’t want to obscure the fact that masking doesn’t solve the problem, vaccination does.’
Despite de Blasio’s focus on vaccination, Governor Andrew Cuomo may ultimately have the power to override the mayor – and implement stricter Covid guidance to protect the state from Delta.
Cases continue to rise sharply in New York City, driven by the Delta variant.
The seven-day average of new cases has more than doubled in the past two weeks, from 268 on July 6 to 576 on July 20.
The test positivity rate is also rising, now at 1.72 percent. This rate may in part reflect fewer New Yorkers getting tested, though, with many mass testing sites shut down or converted to vaccination sites.
New York state overall is in the top 10 states for Covid case growth, per New York Times data. Cases in the state are up 167 percent in the past two weeks.
‘We can’t ignore what’s happening here,’ Mark Levine, City Councilmember and Democratic nominee for Manhattan Borough President, wrote in a tweet.
The case rise is clearly tied to Delta, now causing 69 percent of cases in the city as of July 3.
This is 92 percent higher than the 36 percent of cases the variant made up two weeks earlier.
Patients infected with Delta have a viral load 1,000 times higher than the original viral strain, according to a recent study – meaning that Delta patients may become sick faster and spread the virus more readily than past Covid patients.
The super-contagious Delta variant now makes up at least 69 percent of NYC cases
Despite this danger, NYC is unlikely to see another mask mandate, de Blasio said at the press conference.
Instead, the administration is focused on getting New Yorkers vaccinated.
‘We have to be laser-focused on the benefits of the vaccines,’ said NYC Health Commissioner Dr Dave Chokshi at the press conference
Right now, about 4.5 million New Yorkers (54 percent of city residents) are fully vaccinated while 4.9 million (58 percent) have received at least one dose.
But in some outer-borough neighborhoods – such as parts of Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island – vaccination rates are well under 50 percent.
Those areas with lower vaccination rates also tend to be those with higher case rates. For example, two Staten Island ZIP codes have vaccination under 50 percent – and test positivity rates over 5 percent.
The same neighborhoods with lower vaccination rates also tend to be those with quickly-rising cases and high test positivity rates
De Blasio pointed to low hospitalization numbers as a sign that the vaccines are protecting against severe disease and death for the majority of New Yorkers.
On July 20, 90 patients were admitted to the hospital for confirmed or suspected Covid.
The city hospitalization rate remains very low, at 0.38 admissions for every 100,000 New Yorkers.
‘We’re definitely watching the situation with the cases with concern,’ de Blasio said.
‘But thank God, here, we have a high level of vaccination, that’s the difference-maker, and we’ve gotta keep building that.’
The mayor said his administration intends to ‘push hard on vaccination in every conceivable way.’
Major strategies currently include free, at-home vaccinations available to every New Yorker over age 12 and partnerships with community organizations.
City leaders are also expecting a vaccination surge when the school year starts, as shots will be encouraged among eligible public school students.
‘Masks have been and are vital part of defense against the virus,’ said Commissioner Chokshi. ‘But we have to be laser-focused on the benefits of the vaccines.’
Still, national and local officials have encouraged mask mandates to protect against highly-contagious Delta.
Former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams recently encouraged indoor mask mandates for everyone, including vaccinated Americans.
In NYC, Councilmember Levine and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams have been among those pushing for a similar mandate to return in the city.
‘We waited before, and people died,’ Williams said on Twitter on Monday.