New York

Variants and Vaccinations: The State of the Virus in N.Y.C.

Weather: A lovely day — mostly sunny and less humid, with a high in the low 80s.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Aug. 15 (Feast of the Assumption).

As New York City roared back to life when the summer began, masks fell off and a more typical pace of life returned. But for some, the threat of the virus still represented a lingering anxiety.

Those concerns have grown as the highly infectious Delta variant has driven up the city’s daily coronavirus case counts to their highest totals since mid-May.

With the city’s vaccination campaign struggling, some epidemiologists are worried that officials are moving too slowly.

[Here’s our full explainer on the state of the virus and the city’s response.]

Even as cases in New York have increased, hospitalizations and deaths — metrics that health experts are closely monitoring — have not similarly risen.

A study this week suggested that the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be much less effective against the Delta variant than against the original virus and that those inoculated with it may need a second dose.

[Read more about the study’s findings and what else we know about the variant.]

About 58 percent of all New Yorkers have received at least one dose of a vaccine, city data shows.

But significant disparities have persisted. Only about 33 percent of Black New Yorkers of all ages have received a shot. And about half of all residents in Brooklyn and the Bronx have gotten at least one dose. In Manhattan, around 70 percent have done so.

The large majority of those now testing positive have not been fully vaccinated, officials say.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week that more than 40,000 workers in city-run hospitals and health clinics will soon be required to either be vaccinated or be tested on a weekly basis.

But the mayor has been hesitant to require the same of the 300,000 other people who work for the city, such as police officers, firefighters, correctional officers and clerical workers.

Some other large cities have restarted indoor mask mandates that include even vaccinated residents (which Mr. de Blasio said he would not do) or announced plans to require all city employees to be vaccinated.

Many large employers have planned to bring office workers back in September, but some companies are beginning to move back their return dates.

Mr. de Blasio has insisted that schools will fully reopen in September as planned and that a remote option will not be available. Children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, but the city plans to require students to wear masks at school, among other safety precautions.

Caragh Poh writes:

Kmart opened its doors at 770 Broadway, a commercial landmark where the West Village meets the East, in 1996. Anyone who’s taken the 6 to Astor Place might recall the big red “K” that can be seen from the subway platform, beckoning riders to hunt for discounts.

For those who actually stopped in, searching for a three-pack of Hanes T-shirts or a clean-ish city bathroom, the store could provide a memorable, and occasionally haunting, shopping experience. At least that was the case for all those who shared online tributes to the store after it closed abruptly on July 11.

On Twitter, the author Jason Diamond described going to the Astor Place Kmart as “one of the weirdest shopping experiences for reasons I could never quite put my finger on.”

“I never went to the Astor Place Kmart, mostly because I was certain it was haunted,” tweeted Malika Hunasikatti, a 32-year-old policy specialist.

In recent years, the Astor Place Kmart bravely defied all consumer-psychology logic: The shop’s aisles were rearranged so often that it seemed like an ongoing prank. “I went in October looking for Halloween stuff, and they only had a huge St. Patrick’s Day display,” said Valerie Kamen, a 29-year-old screenwriter living in the East Village.

In addition to showcasing a mind-boggling assortment of items, the Kmart aligned itself in the ’90s and early aughts with a mishmash of celebrities and entertainment franchises. There was the time, in 1997, when U2 played in the store’s lingerie section. Garth Brooks, JoJo, Martha Stewart, Aaron Carter and Sofia Vergara all visited.

The store’s announcement of its closure was a quiet one, communicated by printouts taped to clothing racks and windows. But there had been rumblings for a while, and it wasn’t all that surprising as others in several states began to shutter.

Still, knowing something is nearing its end doesn’t make that eventuality any less sad, and this Kmart in particular felt different.

It’s Thursday — remember the good times.

Dear Diary:

My dentist had been trying to save a large molar for weeks. On a Tuesday, I called him in great pain, and he took it out the next day.

If you’ve ever had a tooth extracted, you know the dentist or surgeon puts in a few sutures and packs the opening with gauze that you replace on an hourly basis.

After leaving the dentist’s office, I got on the elevator. There was a woman standing diagonally across from me.

“Your boot laces are undone,” she said.

“I know,” I garbled through the gauze and the Novocain. “I just had a tooth pulled and have gauze packing. I can’t bend over.”

“But you’re going to trip and fall,” she said.

“I’ll be fine.”

“Let me tie it for you.”

“No, that’s not necessary,” I said, “but thanks.”

She knelt down, tied the undone laces on one of my boots and tightened the laces on the other.

“That’s so sweet of you,” I said. “Thanks.”

“Now you won’t trip,” she said as the elevator opened at the ground floor.

— Arthur Davis

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Read more Metropolitan Diary here.

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