NY COVID Hospitalizations Soar 227% in a Month – NBC New York
What to Know
- New York City’s Department of Education has been urging parents to get their kids vaccinated with the Pfizer shot, the only one currently approved for children ages 12-17, by Aug. 9
- The “Vax to School” campaign is part of the city’s latest push to get more people vaccinated amid rising COVID-19 numbers and concerns over the highly contagious delta variant
- The worrisome indicators have led Mayor Bill de Blasio to mandate the vaccine for all city workers, including teachers and other education staff, or they are required to take weekly COVID-19 tests
Monday is the last day children ages 12 and up can get their first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and still be fully inoculated by the time the next public school year starts on Sept. 13, health and education officials are reminding parents.
The Pfizer shot is the only vaccine approved for kids under 18 and requires a minimum three-week wait between doses. It takes another two weeks for full immunity to kick in.
The “Vax to School” campaign is part of the city’s latest push to get more people vaccinated amid rising COVID-19 numbers and concerns over the highly contagious delta variant, which has sent new daily case totals soaring locally and nationwide. While the prevalence of breakthrough infections remains fractionally low, those who aren’t yet vaccinated are at a higher risk than they’ve ever been, officials have said.
The delta strain is also linked to more severe outcomes among those who haven’t been dosed. Statewide COVID hospitalizations are back above 1,120, a nearly 230% increase in just the last month. The state reported back-to-back days of double-digit death tolls over the weekend after a lengthy streak in the low single digits as well.
New York and Connecticut are now among 40 states with a high level of community transmission with more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the CDC. The entirety of New York City falls into that category as well. New Jersey, not far behind, has substantial transmission, the federal agency says.
There’s still no timeline as to when a vaccine might receive emergency-use authorization for children under 12, which is partly why many states and cities across the country, including New York City and New Jersey, are requiring students and staff to mask up for the start of the year whether they’re vaccinated or not.
Nationwide, the number of children under 5 years old hospitalized for COVID tripled in the first half of July, CDC data shows. The uptick is stoking fresh concerns about safety in schools, which will not have a remote learning option when they reopen next month.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said physical classroom learning is critical for children’s mental development and that layered protections will be in place to ensure safety.
Part of that includes mandating vaccination or weekly COVID testing for all city workers, including teachers and other education staff. Still, concerns linger. And still, de Blasio insists children will be safe when school comes back in a few weeks.
“We’ve had this conversation now for months about how you balance all the needs of children, including all the many health care, physical, and mental health care needs of kids. And it keeps coming back to the same answer, get kids back into school. But do it safely,” the mayor said last week. “We’re going to keep vaccinating young people right up to the beginning of school, even after the beginning of school. Whenever we can get someone to get vaccinated, it’s going to help.”
The pace of vaccinations has lagged to the point that New York City officials recently offered up $100 to anyone who gets vaccinated at one of their health sites.
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So far, about 44% of kids age 12-17 in New York City have gotten at least one shot, according to officials’ latest update. Around 60% of Department of Education employees have at least one dose, though the number doesn’t include those who were vaccinated outside the five boroughs.
Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers, told NBC News in an interview on Sunday that vaccinations are “community responsibility.”
“We’ve always dealt, or since 1850, we’ve dealt with vaccines in schools,” Weingarten said. “It’s not a new thing to have immunizations in school and I think that on a personal matter, as a matter of personal conscious, I think that we need to be working with employers and not opposing them on vaccine mandates.”
Kids of eligible age for vaccination aren’t required to get dosed in order to attend school — again, another reason for the mask requirement in the city. The state Health Department is expected to release formal mask guidance for schools but said last week that such mandates were up to individual school districts.
In New York City, students K-12 and staff will be required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status — in line with the CDC’s recommendations. The same applies for New Jersey K-12 schools when the new school year starts in a few weeks.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday that the requirement is not permanent and will be lifted again, if and when the state takes a turn for the better when it comes to the spread of the delta variant and coronavirus in general. He has not made the same requirement for the general population and only said masking indoors is strongly recommended.