NYC Transmission Rates Skyrocket as Delta Hits 90% of COVID Cases

Delta is also far and away the dominant strain nationally, where it accounts for more than 80% of all positive samples tested

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What to Know

  • In a matter of weeks, the highly transmissible delta variant went from the second-most dominant strain in New York City to become the majority of COVID-19 tested cases
  • According to city data reported on July 9, the delta variant accounted for 26% of all positive samples tested across the five boroughs. The latest number released Friday shows that the B.1.617.2 strain now represents 90% of tested cases in the last four weeks
  • Delta now also accounts for more than 90% of COVID-positive samples tested across the state of New York

The highly transmissible delta variant continues to burn through New York City, now accounting for 90% of all positive samples -- and transmission rates are skyrocketing, as all the other indicators move in the wrong direction too.

All of New York City is now a "high transmission" area, per the CDC -- and the transmission rate (total new cases per 100,000 people over the prior seven days) is up almost 16% in just the last week alone, according to the city health department's latest update Friday.

The same "high transmission" designation holds true for 10 of New Jersey's 21 counties and a quarter of those in Connecticut, where an increasing number of cities and towns are renewing mask rules.

Delta now also accounts for more than 90% of COVID-positive samples tested across the state of New York. It is also far and away the dominant strain nationally, where it accounts for more than 80% of all positive samples tested and has increased its prevalence across the United States aggressively for months.

The state reported a double-digit death toll for the fifth straight day Thursday after a lengthy stretch in the low single digits, while the daily case count rose to its highest total (4,701) since late April.

COVID patients in intensive care have also tripled in the last month and now stand at 289, more than 3.5 times what they were this time in July -- concerning numbers reflective of a national trend that has officials invigorating vaccination pushes with a fervency not seen for months.

NYC COVID Cases Rising

New confirmed plus probable cases are up 16% in New York City versus a week prior, and up 61% versus two weeks prior. The seven-day rolling averages for positive tests in general, positive tests as a percentage of all tests, hospitalizations and deaths are all higher than the 28-day averages, suggesting a steepening curve.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday said 50,000 New Yorkers have claimed $100 prize for getting their first vaccine dose. The vaccination efforts appear to be working, also thanks to new measures increasingly closing daily life to the unvaccinated.

It took only 14 days for delta to vault from the fourth most common COVID strain in the city to the first, overtaking first the so-called New York City strain that initially emerged in Washington Heights before spreading elsewhere, as well as other fast-spreading variants that first emerged in the UK and Brazil. Those latter two "variants of concern" now account for less than 5% of new city cases.

As delta spreads, worsening what the CDC has called a "pandemic of the unvaccinated," almost all of the key metrics are worsening in New York City -- still absolutely nowhere near the city's darkest days, but rising nonetheless.

Over the last two weeks, the percentage of people getting tested who test positive has continued to surge, and now stands at 3.76%. It was under 3% at the end of July.

“More and more businesses have already adopted our Key to NYC requirements - and are becoming public health heroes in the process,” de Blasio said recently. “I thank each and every one of them for doing their part to keep New York City safe. My message to New Yorkers is clear: if you want to enjoy everything New York City has to offer, get vaccinated today.”

The number of doses administered daily in New York doubled this month compared with July, but doctors say it will take several weeks for the latest spike in cases and hospitalizations to level off as immunity kicks in.

That's why health experts continue to urge everyone to social distance, wash hands and wear face-covering because they are scientifically proven ways to reduce the risk of contracting viruses, regardless of vaccination status.

But the fight against the delta variant isn't anywhere close to over, it's only just beginning, as Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city leaders have made clear.

Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here

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

Pandemic of the Unvaccinated

Delta, the variant that was first found in India and is now in at least 104 countries, has dramatically increased its prevalence across the U.S. over the last month, accounting now for well more than 80% of tested samples, according to the CDC.

Scientific evidence has shown delta spreads far more easily than earlier strains of the virus and causes more severe outcomes for those infected, prompting renewed pushes at all levels of government to get people vaccinated if they haven't been.

Officials now believe the delta variant may be more contagious than a common cold and just as contagious as the chickenpox -- well known to generations of parents as one of life's most catchable viruses.

Vaccinated people infected with delta may have the same viral load as an infected unvaccinated person, and be just as contagious, the CDC says.

The World Health Organization, which has called it the "fastest and fittest" variant yet, expects it to become the dominant strain globally.

Given the relatively minute subset of positive samples sequenced to assess potential strain variations, both CDC and local experts believe the prevalence of delta, which is classified as a variant of concern, to be much higher than reported.

The Delta variant of COVID-19 is in New York City - and Staten Island is seeing a higher caseload than any other part of the city. Chris Glorioso talks with health officials about the issue.

The variant is being blamed for a surge across the United States that has seen daily confirmed new cases rise eight-fold since July 1 -- now more than 160,000 people a day testing positive nationwide, back to levels last seen in late January. While hospitalizations and daily deaths remain comparably low, those are lagging indicators and may rise as delta spreads in unvaccinated areas.

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