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

As of August 4, 2021, more than 35.1 million cases of COVID-19 and over 611,791 cumulative total deaths have been reported in the United States 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 people is Louisiana (695.9); South Dakota reported the least (8.8).

The vaccine rollout continues, with more than 347 million doses administered in the U.S.; 57.9 percent of the population has received at least one dose, and 49.7 percent are fully vaccinated as of August 3, 2021. In New York State, as of August 3, the CDC reports that 63.3 percent have received at least one dose, and 57.3 percent are fully vaccinated.

New CDC Masking Recommendations
There has, however, been an increasing number of cases, hospitalizations, and positive test percentages in many counties throughout New York State and nationwide. These increases, thought to be due to the more communicable Delta variant, have compelled the CDC to make new recommendations regarding mask-wearing for vaccinated individuals. The CDC states, "to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high community transmission.” The CDC provides a national website that provides information at the county level, which is very helpful for determining community transmission rates.

This website monitors seven-day averages for testing positivity, cases, hospitalizations, etc., and provides an assessment of community transmission, categorized as low, moderate, substantial, or high. This categorization is important as it provides the basis for determining whether or not vaccinated individuals are required to wear masks indoors. Based on the new recommendation, everyone on New York Tech’s New York City and Long Island campuses is required to wear masks indoors in public areas and classrooms, irrespective of vaccine status.

Status of FDA Approval for Vaccines
One of the most consistently asked questions is when will the COVID vaccine receive full FDA approval (as opposed to the current authorization for emergency use). Recent reports have suggested that this may occur as soon as next month. Full approval could have a cascading effect, with colleges throughout the U.S. mandating the vaccine. Numerous organizations, including the American Medical Association and American Nurses Association, support vaccine mandates for health care workers.

Meanwhile, incentives for vaccinations continue. For example, New York City is offering $100 along with other incentives to individuals who agree to be immunized.

Variant Updates
The CDC continues to monitor variants of SARS Cov-2. The Delta variant is estimated to be 60 percent more transmissible than the U.K. or Alpha variants. There is still no strong evidence that it is more lethal, but its high infectivity rate can cause more people to contract the disease and, accordingly, put more people at risk for death. Bear in mind that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been found to be effective against this variant in preventing hospitalizations and death. The Delta variant now represents as much as 84.9 percent of the coronavirus variants in Utah (the state with the highest recorded percentage of this variant). In comparison, in New York State, the Delta variant now accounts for 62.1 percent of all variants; representing 19.2 percent of all cases in New York, up from 3.8 percent five weeks ago.

From a global perspective, with areas such as Brazil and India continuing to be of concern—though India’s situation is slowly improving—the U.S. has agreed to donate vaccine to assist with global vaccination efforts. This is important because of the very real risk that if the majority of people in the world go unprotected against SARS-CoV-2, viral transmission could continue unabated, which could, in turn, lead to additional variants. As President Biden has shared, it is in the United States’ best interest to assure that this does not happen.

Follow Community Mitigation Best Practices, Get Vaccinated
With the occurrence of the Delta variant, it is more important than ever to follow community mitigation best practices, including frequent hand washing and sanitizing, avoiding unnecessary contact, remaining home when ill, and being mindful of surroundings that may put us at risk. The transmission of this 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

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