Back in 2015, Jeff Bezos conducted a TED Talk in which his argument centered around the statement: “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war.” Four years before the COVID-19 virus first emerged as a highly contagious, deadly disease, Gates recognized our world powers’ lack of preparation for the number one threat to humanity. With over 4 million deaths recorded worldwide and over 600,000 nationwide, New Yorkers have been hit especially hard by this fast-spreading disease. Since its start, there have been over 2 million recorded cases of COVID-19 in New York alone as many of us may remember leading the nation in cases during the first wave. However, since then, New Yorkers have sacrificed so much to bring those numbers down by wearing masks, getting vaccinated, and complying with social distancing regulations. Suddenly, we saw the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations significantly drop and the number of vaccinated individuals rise. While New Yorkers have done a good job at saying “New York tough” through this pandemic, unfortunately many fear a new threat has emerged. One that carries the same amount of uncertainty we felt at the start of the pandemic.
Since it was first seen in the U.K and India at the end of 2020, the Delta variant has become the most transmissible variant of COVID-19 yet. According to NBC New York, the Delta variant is now the leading strain of the virus in New York and New Jersey. As of August 6th, over 80% of infected individuals carry the Delta variant. In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, New York City is currently classified as an area of “high transmission” seeing that it only took 14 days for the Delta variant to go from being the fourth most common COVID strain in the city to the first. While this variant continues to spread at alarming rates, experts urge civilians not to be alarmed just yet, since the amount of hospitalizations have not significantly increased. The rate of hospitalized individuals comes nowhere close with this variant as it was during the first two waves of COVID-19 last year and experts say this is mainly due to the growth in vaccination rates. During a live update on August 6th, Spectrum News reported a 40% increase in vaccinations over the past week as city officials have recommended businesses to require proof of vaccination from employees and consumers in order to counter this rapidly spreading variant. But what does this mean for those who aren’t vaccinated?
While some unvaccinated individuals have made a personal choice not to get the vaccine, gaps in the vaccination exist within our minority communities against their will. More specifically, Hispanic and Black communities face a higher threat to the virus because of a lack of resources to districts across NYC where those populations are predominant. According to NYC’s Department of Health, we see vaccination rates fall below 50% in south Brooklyn and the Bronx compared to 80-110% vaccination rates in Midtown to Lower Manhattan and 70-80% in the northern Queens area. As of August 5th, South Jamaica and the Far Rockaway area follow trends for under 50% of the population being fully vaccinated. A lack of access to reliable information, vaccine appointments, free time to go to those appointments, and even transportation to a vaccination site all play a role in this gap and it is this gap, experts say, that will hinder us from avoiding future turmoil by the Delta variant. As of now, much about the Delta variant remains uncertain, but this is all the more reason to take precaution. If there is anything we learn from the past couple years of COVID-19 it’s that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
With CUNY reopening its doors for the Fall 2021 semester, we must keep in mind that COVID variants are here and they are spreading like wildfire. Luckily, CUNY has officially announced that anyone returning to school grounds must show proof of vaccination. As a college system that caters to the minority communities in NYC, it is unclear how CUNY schools plan to help their students get the vaccinations they need in order to return to in-person classes in a few weeks. For now, for those who need it, there are multiple pharmacies along Kissena Boulevard who are distributing the vaccine by appointment.