Delta Variant and Rise in Cases Has New Yorkers ‘Scared All Over Again’
For a moment, New York was a city that reveled in itself. Just a month ago, the authorities declared it fully open for business; masks slipped off chins and restaurants wrapped in customers as vaccines rolled out. The virus seemed to be losing.
Today, the coronavirus has returned, in a new, more infectious form that has increased cases and hospitalizations, mostly among those who still refuse vaccinations, reeling a city back to life.
For some New Yorkers, marked by the thousands of deaths at the painful peak of the pandemic, each new case, although few in comparison, comes with a hunch in the pit of their stomachs. For others, the spikes in rates and the fact that if they are infected, few vaccinated people become seriously ill, point to a new reality of cohabitation with the virus – perhaps indefinitely.
Perhaps the only emotion shared is the uncertainty. As the variant known as Delta takes refuge across town, questions arise in its wake: is this just what the future looks like? Despite a maskless and festive summer of social proximity, is the pandemic forever?
“It’s like the flu, the flu never stops,” said Nelson Lopez, 45, a resident of East Harlem, who said he still couldn’t walk his block without counting. all the neighbors he had lost to the virus. “People will be afraid forever. “
Over the weekend, Hua Cheng, 55, and her husband, Keith Hu, 60, both electrical engineers, came from their home in Randolph, NJ, to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a city that s suddenly felt insecure again. When they got out of their car, they put on masks.
“I thought I was safe! Mr. Hu said at the foot of the museum steps. The couple have resumed wearing masks, even though they are vaccinated, as the Delta variant has continued to spread. “Before that, we didn’t take it seriously,” Hu said.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccinated people resume wearing masks in indoor public spaces in areas that have recorded more than 50 new infections per 100,000 residents in the previous week, or where more 8% of tests are completed. positive for infection during this period.
All New York City boroughs meet these criteria. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has resisted reinstating a mask mandate, told a press conference on Wednesday that his administration was reviewing the CDC’s guidelines. The mayor announced that the city will begin giving $ 100 to residents who receive their first dose of a vaccine at a site run by the city, starting Friday.
The seven-day average of new coronavirus cases is close to 1,000, down from around 200 last month, and around 75% are attributed to the Delta variant, according to city data. Although the number of coronavirus patients in New York City remains at just under 300, they represent a 75% increase from the start of the month. The vast majority of people hospitalized are unvaccinated people, according to the city.
“The Delta variant really threw a curve ball at us,” de Blasio said at a press conference last week, in which he announced that all public sector healthcare workers must be vaccinated. or undergo weekly tests. On Monday, the mayor extended the mandate to all of his approximately 340,000 municipal employees, setting the deadline for mid-September.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday that state employees would be required to show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly tests under the new state policy that will take effect by New Year’s Day. Work. Earlier this week, California introduced similar warrants and the US Department of Veterans Affairs announced that all of its frontline health care workers must be vaccinated within eight weeks or face penalties, including dismissal.
For some, like Julissa Matos, 31, the news changed vaccination decisions: “I didn’t want to get the shot,” Ms Matos said as she watched her nieces play in a fountain in a park in the South Bronx in the United States. over the weekend. “I felt like they were just experimenting, and I didn’t want to be an experiment.” About 45 percent of residents are vaccinated in the borough, the lowest vaccination rate in the city.
On Monday, Ms Matos took her 12-year-old son, Cleon Clarke, to Lincoln Medical Center in Mott Haven where they both got vaccinated, fearing he would contract the virus when he soon leaves for a sleep camp in Pennsylvania. Last week, an outbreak at Camp Pontiac in Columbia County, NY sickened more than 30 campers, all too young to receive vaccines.
“While I’ve been going to sleep for two weeks now, something in my heart keeps telling me to get it vaccinated,” Ms. Matos said. “I’m starting to get scared again.”
Others say the growing number of cases is not changing their behavior at all.
On Staten Island, Daniel Presti was helping set up a friend’s bar on Victory Boulevard on Friday night. The bar he managed, Mac’s Public House, was closed last year by the city after Mr Presti and his owner, Keith McAlarney, 47, repeatedly broke the city’s lockdown rules aimed at reduce the spread of the virus – what the men said they felt were being infringed on their personal freedoms. It has become a center of the coronavirus cultural wars.
Today, the south shore of Staten Island has one of the city’s highest numbers of coronavirus cases. Mr Presti, 35, said he did not believe the data showing an increase in the number of cases. “I don’t think we should have destroyed lives for a virus that is highly survivable,” he said.
“I will not change the way I do things,” he added.
The Orthodox Jewish enclaves of South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus at the height of the pandemic, which has torn apart united families and killed influential religious leaders. For Tova Schiff, who is 80 years old and a virus survivor, a possible resurgence is frightening.
Understanding the State of Vaccination Mandates in the United States
“You don’t know when this will end, or how it will end,” Ms Schiff said. “Is it going to get worse than it is today or is it just going to go away?” “
Ms Schiff was reluctant to get the vaccine, but ultimately decided to get the vaccine. “I was afraid to do it, I was afraid not to do it,” she said.
Outside the Queens Public Library in Flushing, a group of young people handed out vaccine information leaflets in English and Chinese to passers-by. In the food court at the nearby New World Mall, Cyrus Lee, 32, sat with his 1-year-old daughter. Almost 85 percent of Flushing residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to city data.
Mr. Lee has seen the pandemic up close. His extended family in China experienced the virus months before he arrived in America, he said. When he arrived here, he treated hospital patients for Covid-19 at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, where he is an office assistant.
Her parents, who live in Sunset Park, barely left the neighborhood for a year after the pandemic began, fearing for their safety after a spate of hate crimes targeting Asians.
With the increase in cases, Mr Lee said he feared the same violence would continue: “It never went away,” he said. “They still blame the Asians.”
Hiked through The Ramble in Central Park, Navdeep Shergill, 41, his wife, Ajinder, 40, and their three young children each wore a mask as they scrambled over the rocks and on the trails.
The Shergills were from Folsom, California.
“Covid is here to stay,” said Mr Shergill, who, like his wife, is vaccinated; their children are too young to qualify. “You can’t turn off the Delta variant and come back to life normally. “
Behind her mask, Mrs. Shergill nodded. “This, she said, is a way of life. “
Sadef Ali Kully, Anjali Tsui and Nate schweber contributed reports.
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