NYC COVID positivity rate rises again as de Blasio considers vaccine mandates

The Delta variant of the coronavirus has become the dominant strain of the virus found in New York City and is driving a continuing rise in COVID cases across the city.

New York City's COVID positivity rate rose to 1.58% on Thursday, as rates across the state have continued to increase as well, leading Mayor Bill de Blasio to say he is considering introducing more vaccine mandates to ensure more people get vaccinated.

"We have reached the limits of a purely optional system, it's time for more mandates," de Blasio said. "I'm calling upon all New York City employers, including our private hospitals, to move immediately to some form of mandate, whatever the maximum you feel you can do."

The highly infectious Delta variant is by far the most commonly found strain of the virus, representing nearly 60% of all tested positive samples in the city, up from just a quarter of all tested positive samples just two weeks ago.

De Blasio says he is now targeting teens between the ages of 12 and 17 as part of an effort to get as many people inoculated before September as possible.

"We want to reach as many young people as possible," de Blasio said. "So we are going to have pop-up sites at Summer Rising schools and there's going to be 25 of them over the next few weeks."

The first pop-up vaccine clinic will open Monday at Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn. Clinics will be held at schools in all 5 boroughs through August 13. 

Health officials across the nation are sounding the alarm and encouraging Americans to get vaccinated, as the delta variant rips through unvaccinated communities and an increase in cases strains healthcare systems.

RELATED: CDC director: Hospitals ‘reaching capacity in some areas’ as COVID-19 cases rise

"We are yet at another pivotal moment in this pandemic, with cases rising again and some hospitals reaching their capacity in some areas," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said during a White House coronavirus press briefing on Thursday. 

Reports of so-called "breakthrough" infections of people who are fully vaccinated has also drawn concerns, but top health experts point to overwhelming evidence that the shots are doing exactly what they are supposed to: dramatically reducing severe illness and death.

"When you hear about a breakthrough infection, that doesn’t necessarily mean the vaccine is failing," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease specialist, told a worried Senate panel this week. The shots are holding up, he said, even in the face of the highly contagious delta variant that is burning through unvaccinated communities.

RELATED: Reports of ‘breakthrough’ COVID-19 cases alarming medical experts, world governments

According to the latest data from the New York City Department of Health, 70% of all adults in New York City have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

De Blasio has come under fire recently for mixed messaging, as his administration has been pleading with New Yorkers to get vaccinated, while also promoting a series of outdoor concerts slated for August. 

Get breaking news alerts in the FOX5NY News app. Download for FREE!