NEW YORK — The most common strain of the coronavirus circulating in the U.S. is also one of the most contagious — that’s what the Centers for Disease Control confirmed on Wednesday. The situation has added to challenges that the New York City region faces, including the fact that New York and New Jersey are among five states that have nearly half of all new cases.
The coronavirus variant called B.1.1.7 was first discovered in the United Kingdom, which is why it’s known as the U.K. strain of the virus. At the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Wednesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky confirmed that the strain has spread widely in the U.S.
“This is the most common lineage right now,” Dr. Walensky said.
It’s part of the reason COVID infection rates aren’t lowering nationwide.
Meanwhile, our region is playing an outsize role in the curve of cases refusing to go down.
Research from Johns Hopkins University, the foremost entity documenting COVID-19 cases worldwide, shows that 44% of new Covid cases are in just five states: New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
In addition, the Garden State has worse news, as its health commissioner announced on Wednesday.
“New Jersey ranks third in hospitalizations per 100,000 in the United States,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said at a briefing hosted by Gov. Phil Murphy. He called on New Jerseyans to do more, personally, to stop the spread.
“Human behavior can bend these trajectories, good or bad,” said the governor, who also laid out a variety of possible outcomes for the months ahead. He said that in addition to increasing vaccinations, people need to continue to wear masks, social distance, and isolate as well as possible.
About a third of all residents in New York and New Jersey have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Also, New York City remains on pace to meet its goal of a half million vaccinations per week, for the second week in a row.
Despite improving vaccination numbers, hurdles to a full reopening remain, including for the city’s plan to reopen schools completely in September.
The CDC reported that about 80% of teachers nationwide are vaccinated. However, in New York City, there’s still a long road ahead in order to reach that mark. According to the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers, only about 46,000 of the city’s 94,000 teachers are vaccinated. That’s just under 50%.