NYC health officials urge vaccinations as delta variant spreads

As the delta variant of the coronavirus spreads around the world, New York City health officials are focusing on vaccination efforts, which includes increased outreach to New Yorkers who have yet to get a shot.

"We do know that it is more transmissible. That means it spreads more easily," Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city's health commissioner, said on Tuesday. "It may cause more severe disease, although we don't have strong evidence on that point just yet."

The delta variant has surfaced in 85 countries so far. The CDC said it expects delta to become the dominant strain in the fall.

And now the World Health Organization is urging everyone, including people who are vaccinated, to continue wearing face coverings indoors because of the potential danger that delta poses.

When asked during his Tuesday briefing if mask mandates could return to New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio didn't rule it out.

"The bottom line is we will make adjustments when we see real, consistent evidence," the mayor said. "But so far, the data is telling us, in fact, things keep moving in the right direction."

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New York City health officials are urging more residents to get vaccinated now.

"In places like Staten Island, we are seeing slightly higher rates of test positivity as well as cases," Chokshi said. "So that's been a reason for us to turn some attention there, particularly around youth vaccination."

Dr. Mitchell Katz, the president of New York City's public hospitals network, said this is the time to get vaccinated if you haven't yet.

"It would make a huge difference and protect them against the delta and all other variants," Katz said.

The delta variant is already leading to new restrictions around the world. For example, a nationwide lockdown in Malaysia will remain in effect indefinitely. Also, officials in Bangladesh have also imposed a national lockdown.

Researchers and health authorities have documented several variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, over the course of the pandemic.

"Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time," CDC states. "Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist."

The challenge, according to CDC, is for scientists to study the variants to determine how widely they've spread, how the disease they cause is different from the disease caused by other variants, and how they may affect therapies, vaccines, and tests.