Message from Brian L. Harper M.D., M.P.H.
Dear New York Tech Students, Faculty, and Staff:

As of June 24, nearly 33.4 million cases of COVID-19 and 600,086 cumulative total deaths in the U.S. have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since the start of the pandemic. Over the past seven-day period, the state reporting the highest number of cases per 100,000 is Missouri (78.3) and the least, Vermont (5.1).

The vaccine rollout continues, with more than 319 million doses administered; approximately 53.6 percent of the U.S. population have received at least one dose, and 45.4 percent are now fully vaccinated. It is unlikely that President Biden's goal of having 70 percent of Americans vaccinated by July 4 will become a reality.

However, the Associated Press reports that only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 fatalities in the U.S. last month "were fully vaccinated people," and "breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 853,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations," based on the AP's analysis of CDC data. This new perspective may encourage more people to be vaccinated.

In New York State, as of June 23, the CDC reports 59.1 percent have received at least one dose and 52.3 percent are fully vaccinated. The testing positivity rate in New York State remains extremely low, at 0.34 percent. Given this dramatic progress—including the success in vaccination rates and declining hospitalization and positivity rates statewide—the state of emergency expired on June 24. CDC guidance remains in effect, which includes masks for unvaccinated individuals, riders on public transit, and those in such settings as health care, nursing homes, correctional facilities, and homeless shelters.

As community mitigation mandates begin to loosen, we should keep in mind that there are still many people who have not been vaccinated and are susceptible to COVID infection. Even those who have been immunized have a very small risk of breakthrough infection.

This remains particularly important in light of the new variant of concern: B.1.617.2, the Delta variant. It has caused significant morbidity and mortality in India, is now the most dominant variant in the United Kingdom, and is projected to become the most dominant variant in the United States. The U.K. variant was found to be 60 percent more transmissible than the original SARS Cov-2 virus. Thus, the Delta variant, estimated to be 60 percent more transmissible than the U.K. variant, is significantly more contagious than the original strain that caused the pandemic. Although there is yet to be strong evidence that the Delta virus is more lethal, the high infectivity rate can cause more people to contract the disease and, accordingly, put more people at risk for death. Additionally, clinical treatment—such as monoclonal antibodies—may be less effective. The good news is that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been found to be effective against the Delta variant in preventing hospitalizations and death.

The CDC continues to monitor variants of SARS Cov-2. The Delta variant now represents as much as 29.3 percent of all variants in Missouri (the state with the highest percentage of this variant). In contrast, it represents 3.8 percent of variants in New York for the week ending June 5.

From a global perspective, India remains the area of highest concern with more than 30 million cases and 391,981 deaths reported as of June 23, according to John Hopkins University.

It is clear that we have experienced dramatic improvement over time due to our community mitigation efforts, vaccination success, and clinical care efforts. As we begin to socially gather again, we should continue practices that have helped reduce the spread of this virus and other germs, including continued frequent handwashing and sanitizing, avoiding unnecessary contact, remaining home when ill, and being mindful of surroundings that may put us at risk. Although transmission has been reduced, the virus has not been eliminated and will probably be around for a long time!

As always, the New York Tech community is welcome to make an appointment for a COVID test or vaccination at the Academic Health Care Center in Long Island by calling 516.686.1300. Those who may feel anxious or uneasy can reach out to Counseling and Wellness Services at our campuses in Long Island (516.686.7683) or New York City (212.261.1773) to talk or make a virtual appointment.


Brian L. Harper, M.D., M.P.H.
Chief Medical Officer, NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine
Vice President, Equity and Inclusion

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