By Barrett Seaman—
We can all feel it and see it around us, but it is still gratifying to read the numbers that confirm it. On Monday, Governor Cuomo announced that the statewide vaccination rate is 69.9%. In Westchester, County Executive George Latimer announced that 74.8% of residents age 12 and over has been vaccinated.
For more than a year, CDC and other experts have been saying that when 70% of the population has either been vaccinated or developed natural antibodies by surviving the actual virus, we will have reached so-called “herd immunity.”
This week, at least here, we’re there. Or are we?
Of course, there is no specific, scientifically confirmed percentage or number that guarantees herd immunity, but the numbers of active infections and the overall trend in new infections lend credence to that claim. New York State, as of Monday, has seen 70 straight days of decline in reported positive COVID tests—setting records for the past 17 straight days. When the positivity rate falls below one percent, public health officials say, that means the disease is no longer spreading; it’s being snuffed out, unable to find new bodies in which to thrive and, worse yet, mutate.
The statewide positivity rate, averaged over the past seven days, was 0.41%. In Westchester, the 12 people who tested positive over the weekend represent 0.38% of those tested that day. The number of active cases this week is the lowest it has been since the very beginning of the pandemic in February of 2020.
“We are moving forward to our reimagined, post-COVID future at an incredible pace,” said the governor. “A year ago, it was unfathomable to think we’d be at this point today.”
Still, there is a population out there that has not been vaccinated—a quarter of a million of them here in Westchester, and there are geographical disparities in where they live (see https://thehudsonindependent.com/greenburgh-and-covids-disparate-impact/).
There are volunteers out there trying to break down the last walls of resistance. Some of those walls are nearly impenetrable: ideological, conspiratorial or based on pure disinformation or ignorance. Others, says Kenny Herzog of Sleepy Hollow, a leader of the #VaxUpWestchester campaign that grew out of the Greenburgh COVID Angels, are simply because it’s too hard or too anxiety-producing to get to a vaccination site because of work or transportation or family demands.
“Free beer and Mets tickets and random lotteries are all fine and well and serve their ends,” he wrote in an open letter to the Biden Adminstration, “but they do nothing to deliver crucially required aid to organizations like ours, or like Epicenter-NYC, or like VaccineBrigade-Chicago—organizations that are looking at things through the lens of equity that the Biden administration has promoted as its filter for all policy.”
“If you want to truly hit your target and make this current effort more inclusive, don’t exclude or take for granted those of us working so hard to protect populations who aren’t hesitant or reluctant, but simply scared and overwhelmed.”
As long as they are out there and unpersuaded, the virus has a haven and thus a chance to survive and mutate.