More than half of new coronavirus cases being diagnosed in New York City are variant strains, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at his press conference on Wednesday.
Of the 51% of cases that are variants, with 12% being the UK variant and 39% being the New York variant. The New York mutation, also known as B1526, is likely to be more contagious than the first strain of coronavirus that infected the city throughout the pandemic.
Health advisor Dr. Jay Varma said the rise of more infectious mutated strains indicates that everyone must stay on alert and that the threat of the coronavirus is far from passed.
Fortunately, there is no indication these strains are more dangerous, and studies have indicated the vaccines are equally effective against them.
“Our preliminary analysis does not show this new strain causes more severe illness or reduces the effectiveness of vaccines,” Varma said.
These new mutations, which are more infectious, are why the city’s infection rates have stalled after weeks of falling, the mayor said.
City health commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi echoed the concern. “The variants have been detected in samples from across New York City, indeed in other states as well,” Chokshi said. “That means we need all New Yorkers to pay attention to this.”
The current infection rate is 6.23%.
The city is continuing to race against the virus by distributing thousands of vaccines a day across the five boroughs. De Blasio celebrated the state’s recent rollback of most restrictions pertaining to who is eligible for vaccination and where, saying, “We finally are out from under bureaucratic state rules.”
As of today, all New Yorkers 60 and above are eligible to be vaccinated, as are all adults with a wide array of preexisting conditions, and people who work in certain essential jobs such as healthcare or food services. Additionally, there are no longer restrictions dictating vaccine site based on where a person lives, giving people a wider array of vaccine sites and more opportunities to book appointments.
“It’s a race against time, but we’re also seeing promising news, and we’re seeing the impact at hospitals,” de Blasio said.
Still, the city has a long way to go before officials can be confident life can return to normal. Just under 2.5 million shots have been given in New York City.
De Blasio estimated vaccines will be available and accessible for all residents by May or June, while his health advisors are optimistic the city could reach its goal in the spring.
“Expect to keep wearing your mask until at least June,” de Blasio warned. ““t’s going to take a substantial amount of time to get all that covered. This obviously includes the most vulnerable people…I don’t think open vaccination happens in March. I don’t think it happens in April — maybe May, June.”
“May is the month we should look toward for every New Yorker who wants a vaccine to get one,” said Chokshi.
Updated Wednesday, March 10, 2021 at 1:44 pm .
Updated Wednesday, March 10, 2021 at 1:45 pm .