Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

The COVID-19 Delta variant is being blamed for a 229% increase in hospitalizations in the past month in New York State. The Delta variant is literally taking over the country as reports indicate that 75% of the counties in the nation are experiencing high transmission COVID rates.

As of Aug. 9, of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories, 18 jurisdictions have some form of mask mandate in place, while 23 jurisdictions have no mask mandates, either because no mandate was imposed, or because a mandate was lifted or allowed to expire. Fifteen jurisdictions prohibit state or local governments from imposing mask mandates.

A total of 18 counties in New York State are experiencing high COVID-19 transmission levels including all five boroughs in New York City and Long Island. On Monday, the 7-day average percentage of positive test results in the city was 2.6%. This time last month the average was 1.27%. Staten Island is seeing the city’s highest COVID-19 positivity rate.

The Delta variant now accounts for 83% of new positive COVID-19 cases.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that in order to bring the city back, the Delta variant has to be dealt with head on. He said if infection rates continue to rise and hospitalization get worse, the city could shut down again along with other restrictions.

Beginning at the end of the week, New Yorkers must show proof of vaccination status via the “Key to NYC Pass” phone app to attend indoor dining, indoor entertainment and indoor fitness. New York is only one of three jurisdictions in the nation that have implemented a COVID-19 vaccine passport, while 20 jurisdictions have banned all or some proof of vaccination requirements.

De Blasio said vaccine mandates and a recent $100 vaccine incentive could improve vaccination rates in the Black community, which is at only 36% in the city. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation Vaccine Monitor report, COVID-19 vaccinations among the Black population continue to lag in at least 40 states.

“I absolutely believe that the mandates, the public service mandate for our public service workers, the indoor dining entertainment mandate are going to very deeply improve numbers in communities of color,” he said. “There’s a lot of those folks that work for the city or work in those industries. A lot of those folks will be very interested in the incentive. And the combination works together. So, I think this has got to be another way we turn that and reduce that disparity.”

NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz said that the COVID-19 vaccine has little to do with access but continued hesitancy.

“I take care of a large number of African American patients in my practice,” he said. “And so, I know it isn’t any more an issue of access. It may have once been an issue of access. But now for each one, I can send them right downstairs where they see me and get the vaccine at that moment without waiting. There remains, because of our history in this country of racism, a lot of fear in the African American community about the vaccine. Over time we are convincing people that they are safer with vaccination.”