SUNSET PARK, Brooklyn — Two new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus now make up a majority of the cases in New York City.
That was the word from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top healthcare advisor on Wednesday. The news came during a briefing in which the mayor and his advisors also gave, for the first time, dates by which all residents — regardless of age and pre-existing conditions — can be vaccinated.
Vaccinations are what the mayor and his top health advisors were urging on Wednesday, in large part to counter the news about the coronavirus variants originally discovered in the U.K. and New York.
Dr. Jay Varma, the mayor’s top medical advisor, laid out the situation.
“Together,” he said, “these new variants account for 51% of all cases that we have in this city right now.”
Regarding the New York variant specifically, Varma continued.
“Our preliminary analysis indicates that it is probably more infectious than older strains of the virus.”
Mayor de Blasio also said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s lowering the age of eligibility for vaccinations from 65 to 60 was helping the situation, adding that it’s what the city had long requested. The mayor also said that the governor’s recent troubles had perhaps helped spur the changes.
“If it takes multiple scandals to get him to finally hear the voices of the people at the grass roots and to respect local leaders,” said de Blasio, “well, that’s a sad commentary. But what’s important is we’re finally getting some of the changes we need.
Also appealing to the governor on Wednesday was a suburban member of Congress. Rep. Mondaire Jones represents the 17th Congressional District, which covers Westchester and Rockland Counties. Of all of the New York metro=area counties, Rockland has had the highest rates of COVID-19 infections throughout the pandemic.
It’s why Jones said he sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday asking for a vaccination megasite in Rockland County.
“As the federal government continues to ramp up resources,” Rep. Jones said, “it’s even less explicable as to why we don’t have a mass vaccination site in Rockland County.”
Also, for the first time, Mayor de Blasio put a date on when every New Yorker, regardless of age or pre-existing conditions, might be able to get vaccinated.
“Maybe May, June would be my layman’s sense,” he said.
Dr. Varma and the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi, agreed with the mayor’s estimate.
It was welcome news for people arriving for their appointments at the city’s vaccination megasite at the Brooklyn Army Terminal.
“I’ve had enough of this,” said Maritza Evans, just before entering to get her second shot. “I’m hopeful that that is the case.”
The mayor implied that, with widespread vaccinations, the city could open further after the summer.
Raj Gupta, who’d just gotten a coronavirus shot, expressed optimism.
“I think it’s going to happen sooner than later,” he said, “because more and more people are starting to take the medicine.”
Still, the mayor’s advisors still urged caution, even if most New Yorkers get vaccinated.
“We really have to grapple with the fact that this virus isn’t going away from the world,” Dr. Varma said. “So we need to have all the weapons that we can possibly have available to us.”