Vanquishing the Variants

The map is still getting redder. The CDC Time Lapse Map shows the difference between the map on August 16, 2021 to September 12, 2021 https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view

Updated on 09.16.2021

Delta, Delta, Delta what makes you so daunting?  We’ve seen other variants before and they haven’t moved the numbers up like you, once the vaccines were released.  Then you came along to remind us not to underestimate a virus, and the only constant is change. 

On August 6 the Delta Variant of SARS-CoV-2 (note: SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus and COVID-19 is the name of the disease this virus causes, all variants of SARS-CoV-2 cause COVID-19) became the dominant strain in NYC when 83% of those infected had Delta.The current estimate for Delta’s infection percentage is 94%.

The Delta Variant of the virus is more than twice as contagious as the original virus.  It may also be more likely to cause severe illness and to reinfect those who have had COVID-19.  Delta is also infecting a higher percentage of young people than previous strains.

NYC isn’t alone in re-ramping up their safety protocols.  As COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates rise, other cities are bringing back masks and initiating vaccine mandates. For example, Las Vegas currently recommends wearing masks indoors, and the Las Vegas Raiders are the first NFL football team to require proof of vaccination to attend home games at Allegiant Stadium. 

The CDC informs that, “vaccines continue to reduce a person’s risk of contracting the virus that cause COVID-19, including [the Delta Variant].  Vaccines are highly effective against severe illness, but the Delta Variant causes more infections and spreads faster than earlier forms of the virus that causes COVID-19.”  A recent update on the CDC website states, “On July 27, 2021, CDC released updated guidance on the need for urgently increasing COVID-19 vaccination and a recommendation for everyone in areas of substantial or high transmission to wear a mask in public indoor places, even if they are fully vaccinated.”  The CDC issued this new guidance due to concerning developments and newly emerging data signals, among them a reversal in the downward trajectory of cases and a rapid and alarming rise in the COVID case and hospitalization rates around the country.

North Brooklyn stats

To keep current on the hyper-local data you can visit the COVID-19 Data Neighborhoods page: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-data-neighborhoods.page.  As of September 15, Brooklyn has the second highest transmission rate of the five boroughs; Staten Island has the highest.

Williamsburg North and South and East Williamsburg (zip codes 11211 & 11249):  is a High transmission zone with 182.15 cases per 100K in the past seven days; 55.56% of people have had at least 1 dose of the vaccine and 51.27% are fully vaccinated (NYC’s median percentage of 1 dose/fully vaccinated:  68.07%/62.12%).  This data is from September 15, 2021.

Greenpoint (zip code 11222): is a High transmission zone with 182.16.1 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days; 79.33% of people have had at least 1 dose of the vaccine and 74.25% are fully vaccinated.  (NYC’s median percentage of 1 dose/fully vaccinated:  68.07%/62.12%).  This data is from September 15, 2021

Pink line is Greenpoint, Grey line is Brooklyn, Black line is all of NYC

Williamsburg South (zip code 11206): is a High transmission zone with 137.79 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days; 52.29% of people have had at least 1 dose of the vaccine and 46.68% of people are fully vaccinated. (NYC’s median percentage of 1 dose/fully vaccinated:  68.07%/62.12%).  This data is from September 15, 2021.

Bushwick/East Williamsburg (zip code 11237): is a High transmission zone with 138.79 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days; 71.77% of people have had at least 1 dose of the vaccine and 62.08% of people are fully vaccinated. (NYC’s median percentage of 1 dose/fully vaccinated:  68.07%/62.12%).  This data is from September 15, 2021.

The vaccination percentage has been increasing and the transmission rate is on the decrease over the past nine days.

Classification of Variants

SARS-CoV-2 variants are classified into 3 types: Variants of Concern (VOC), Variants of Interest (VOI), and Variants of High Consequence. 

VOCs are variants that show an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures. Current VOCs are: Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma.

VOIs are variants with specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding, reduced neutralization by antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccination, reduced efficacy of treatments, potential diagnostic impact, or predicted increase in transmissibility or disease severity. Current VOIs are: Eta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, and most recently Mu.

Variants of High Consequence are variants show clear evidence that prevention measures or medical countermeasures (MCMs) have significantly reduced effectiveness relative to previously circulating variants. Currently, there are no SARS-CoV-2 variants that rise to the level of high consequence.


Vaccines Work

Variants are a natural evolution of a virus.  Every time a virus replicates changes occur in its genetic material, hence variants are born.  The best way to stop virus replication is to slow or stop transmission.  The best way to slow or stop transmission is for people to get vaccinated everywhere and to mask up in high transmission zones. 

Data collection shows vaccines are effective.  Between January 17 and August 17, people who are unvaccinated in NYC accounted for: 96.1% of all COVID-19 cases, 96.9% of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and 97.3% of COVID-19 deaths

Multiple studies from the United States and other countries have demonstrated that the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still highly effective against original and variant forms of COVID-19 infection (both symptomatic and asymptomatic) and its resulting severe disease, hospitalization, and death.  Those who have been vaccinated also carry a lower viral load than unvaccinated people, which is indicative of lesser transmissibility.  

On August 23, the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine received formal U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.  It was originally named the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, but will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee).

Vaccinations are free and available to those who are 12 or older. Go to: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-vaccines.page to find a nearby vaccination site, or to choose to get in-home vaccination fill out the form here: https://forms.cityofnewyork.us/f/home

NYC also offers roaming temporary vaccine sites that are at pop-up sites or via a mobile van or bus.  Locations change weekly and you can click on a borough to find the current sites nearest you at: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/coronavirus/vaccines/covid-19-vaccines.page

Boosters are coming: As of September 1, the CDC still informs that 8 months after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines is an appropriate interval when a booster could be administered.  However, this is subject to authorization by the FDA and recommendation by CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Back to School and Back to Masks

Masks are still required when using public transportation.  You are to wear them in airport terminals and at indoor train stations and onboard trains, buses, and paratransit vehicles.  You do not have to wear a mask at outdoor train stations and platforms, or at bus stops. You must wear a mask once you board a train, bus or paratransit vehicle.

Look for the signs.  Many small enclosed stores and other businesses will post a sign outside the door as to if they require masks for entrance and how many are allowed inside.

Governor Kathy Hochul outlined plans for a school mask mandate in her initial formal address as governor on August 24.  She stated, “As Governor, my priorities are now the priorities of the people of New York — and right now that means fighting the Delta Variant.  My number one priority is getting children back to school and protecting the environment so they can learn safely. I am immediately directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools, and we are launching a Back to School COVID-19 testing program to make testing for students and staff widely available and convenient. We are also working to require vaccinations for all school personnel with an option to test out weekly, and we are going to accomplish all of this by working in partnership with all levels of government.”

NYC and NYS are currently recommending all to follow the CDC guidelines for masking and have not as yet reinstated mask mandates for the general public.  In brief the CDC’s guidelines on masking as of this writing is to wear a mask indoors if you are unvaccinated, but due to Delta vaccinated people can wear masks to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, and in general there is no need to wear a mask in outdoor settings except in cases where you would be in a crowd or close contact with others.


What about Mandates?

Vaccine and mask mandates are becoming a more viable protocol to control the spread of COVID-19 as infection rates rise.  Private employers can institute a vaccine mandate under guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), for employees who physically enter the workplace.

It is not as easy to implement mandates to public employees.  On August 23, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter, and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner (DOHMH) Dr. Dave A. Chokshi announced a new health care mandate to require all New York City Department of Education employees to provide proof of first dose of vaccination by September 27th.  Nearly a month previously municipal workers, including teachers and police officers, were notified to get COVID-19 vaccines by mid-September or submit results of weekly COVID-19 tests.  The unions representing these employees have asked for negotiations even though their leaders encourage vaccination.  On August 25 union workers protested in front of City Hall, and most recently a rally on September 13 at Foley Square. On September 15, a NYS Supreme Court judge put the City’s vaccination mandate for NYC employees on hold until both sides have a hearing in court on September 22.

Mayor de Blasio announced a vaccination mandate for indoor venues that provide dining, entertainment, and fitness to begin on August 17 for the public in general.  Proof of vaccination is now needed to eat inside a restaurant, visit a museum, go see a movie, workout at an indoor gym, etc.   The executive order Mayor de Blasio signed established the order would go into effect on August 17, but enforcement of the fines which start at $1,000 and can rise to $5,000 went into effect on September 13. Enforcement will be done by civilian inspectors from thirteen city agencies including FDNY,

Krispy Kreme has doubled their incentive to be vaccinated to 2 donuts through September 5

Incentives

The main incentive to get the vaccine is to protect oneself and the community from illness and transmission.  In addition, there are several added bonuses.

$100 pre-paid debit card will go to those who get their first vaccine dose at a New York City-run vaccination location or through the City’s in-home vaccination program on or after July 30, 2021.  Once vaccinated, an email will be sent with instructions on how to select money or incentive.  Among the incentives you can choose are a two-week membership to Citibike or a 10-ride pass on NYC Ferry.  You can also call 877-VAX4NYC (877-829-4692) to learn more.

Anyone who has received a COVID-19 vaccine at any time can enjoy giveaways from Krispy Kreme (you’re getting two donuts during 8/30–9/5), Shake Shack, and Crunch Gym. You can also get 20% off at the CityStore to show your NYC spirit! The NYC Vaccine Referral Bonus program awards $100 to a participating community or faith-based organization for each person who gets their first vaccination at a City-run site that was referred by the approved nonprofit.  When a person makes an appointment ahead of time or walks up or signs up for home vaccination they select the organization that referred them to get vaccinated.  St. Nicks Alliance is one of many community organizations selected to participate in this program.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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