What to Know
- Nearly 3/4 of all U.S. counties are now considered "high transmission" areas under the CDC's new tracking system; that means universal indoor masking is recommended regardless of vaccination status
- In NJ, breakthrough infections represent a very small but rising share of new hospitalizations; fully vaccinated people were 3% of all COVID hospitalizations July 20-26; that's up from .004% overall as of July 26
- The list of countries with the CDC's highest COVID threat warning for travel includes nations with the highest vaccination rates on the globe
New York's total COVID hospitalizations topped 1,300 Tuesday for the first time since late May, quadrupling over just the last month and reigniting concerns about the crisis on the same day the governor who spearheaded the response resigned.
The state has reported four straight days of double-digit death tolls and hit a recent high Tuesday (17) after a lengthy streak in the low single digits, reflecting the greater trend nationally.
Two more countries -- France and Israel -- have been added to the CDC's highest COVID threat level as it relates to travel for Americans. More than 70 nations now comprise the list of places the public health agency wants U.S. residents to avoid as the highly contagious delta variant fuels renewed surges across the globe.
The "Level 4" warning list also includes countries ranging from Thailand to Fiji, Greece, Iceland, England and dozens of others battling COVID concerns anew as the variant that first devastated India before spreading worldwide wreaks havoc.
Americans are advised to "avoid travel to these destinations" as a rule, but anyone who doesn't heed the CDC's guidance should ensure full vaccination before travel, it says.
The top three nations in terms of percentage population fully vaccinated also have the CDC's highest COVID threat level: Malta (No. 1, 79%), United Arab Emirates (No. 2, 73%) and Iceland (No. 3, 71%) which has some wondering: Is it safe anywhere?
As has been the overwhelming case, the key and most concerning risk is to the unvaccinated. Breakthrough infections, especially serious ones, remain fractionally low across the board, though the representation of vaccinated people in hospitals with the respiratory virus is on the rise in recent weeks in certain areas, including New Jersey.
The United States, including the entire tri-state area, would likely qualify for representation on the CDC's own Level 4 warning list given its latest numbers.
As of Tuesday, 73% of all U.S. counties are in a state of "high transmission," meaning viral rates above 100 cases per 100,000 people over the last week, according to the CDC. That includes all five counties that comprise New York City, nearly half of New Jersey's 21 counties and a quarter of those in Connecticut.
The remaining tri-state counties, with the exception of about 13 far north and west of the city, are in a "substantial" transmission state, meaning between 50 and 99 new cases per 100,000.
Under the agency's public health guidance, that means universal indoor masking is recommended for nearly the whole tri-state area and almost 90% of the entire country (16.4% of U.S. counties currently have the CDC's substantial transmission rating).
Officials at all levels of government point to the highly contagious delta variant and lagging vaccination rates as the reason -- and warn the pandemic could linger, and more restrictions be reinstated, if immunization rates can't keep up with the virus.
In the city, delta now accounts for 83% of all tested positive COVID samples, according to health officials' latest update. That number is almost identical (83.9%) in New Jersey. Delta is also the dominant COVID strain nationally, accounting for 83.4% of genetically sequenced samples, the latest CDC data shows.
That delta is fueling spikes in new daily cases across the country isn't the primary concern from a public health standpoint, officials say. It has been linked to more severe outcomes among the unvaccinated, which leads to more death by default.
New York City and New Jersey Vaccine Providers
Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.
Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC
No new universal mask mandate has been imposed in any of the tri-states or nationally. New York and New Jersey both strongly encourage masking in high-risk areas in alignment with CDC guidance, while Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order empowering cities and towns to reinstate mask mandates.
More than two dozen localities have since imposed new mandates. See the list here.