Once the epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic, New York City experienced a drop in the prevalence of the Delta variant from 8.4% to 6.7% in the latest, weekly variant sequencing study.
By Progress New York Staff
Updated 21 June 2021 09:45 Two days after the de Blasio administration released the findings of its recent weekly COVID-19 variant sequencing study, showing that the prevalence of the dangerous new strain known as the Delta variant had fallen from 8,4 per cent. to 6,7 per cent., a London newspaper, the Financial Times, published a report, estimating the prevalence of the Delta variant in the U.S. at 31 per cent. The divergence of the Delta variant’s prevalence in New York from a National model estimate provided by the Financial Times betrays numerous reports that the Delta variant is more transmissible than the former prominent variant and that it is capable of vaccine escape.
For weeks, Progress New York has published reports, which have raised questions about the accuracy of the weekly variant sequencing studies. Indeed, the first time that the Delta variant was reported in New York City was in a retroactive disclosure in an overdue study that showed the first detection in samples drawn from COVID-19 cases from April 26-May 2. (A National Geographic report has revealed that, “The data from India and the U.K. show that Delta has emerged as the dominant variant in those countries within four to six weeks.”) Some of the early Progress New York reports initially focused on the plunge in the sample size used in the studies. The de Blasio administration responded by changing the presentation of the variant study results. Then, last week, some data (like the number of COVID-19 cases that were sequenced) was restated almost wholesale.
It is unknown how Mayor Bill de Blasio (WFP-New York City) will explain the divergence in the variant data. The press office supporting Mayor de Blasio refused on Sunday to admit that the administration was presenting unreliable variant study data.
There’s little transparency to the methodology used by the laboratory to sequence the COVID-19 variants.
Many critics are coming to the fore about the de Blasio administration’s lack of transparency about its weekly variant sequencing studies. One critic, known as @BWMosher on the Twitter social media platform, published some analysis of the latest sequencing study, noting some of the restatements to the data underpinning the weekly studies. In that review, information was provided that eventually linked the laboratory used by the de Blasio administration to conduct the variant studies, the Pandemic Response Lab, with the City’s controversial arm that intervenes in the free market system to provide subsidies to large corporations.
The lab, also known by the mnemonic “Pearl” for its initials, or PRL, was created in the summer of 2020 by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, or the NYCEDC, first to conduct tests for COVID-19, according to City Hall information. At some point, PRL began to sequence for variants. That the NYCEDC was behind PRL presents an appearance of a conflict of interest, because the chambres of commerce in New York City have been pressuring Mayor de Blasio to reopen the economy, so that workers can return to office buildings that still largely remain empty. To that end, the titans of industry have been pressuring for the full reopening of public schools from mere months into the pandemic, so that working families could rely on schools as day care. The reliance on public schools as day care for working families was noted in a mid-year budget report issued in 2020 by the Office of the Comptroller of the City of New York Government. “If public schools don’t reopen, parents of up to a million school children will have to provide their own childcare on at least a part-time basis, inhibiting many parents’ ability to return to full-time work,” the report noted.
Were PRL to report prevalence rates for the Delta variant that mirrored the Financial Times’ model, then businesses, office buildings, and public schools would face pressure to delay, or cancel, their reopenings. It is not known whether the unreliable sequencing data is a result of the appearance of a conflict of interest for the NYCEDC.
It’s coming—#DeltaVariant is now >96% dominant in 3 major counties (UK, Russia, Portugal). It is surging exponentially in the US at now 31% of all cases, up from ~10% just a week ago. The #COVID19 rise & divergence hidden by fast dropping #AlphaVariant. 🧵https://t.co/oQkVY8CFoj pic.twitter.com/psS4j1CVk4
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) June 20, 2021
The misuse of pandemic financial assistance has been prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, but the Nation’s top Federal prosecutor in Manhattan has remained mum about allegations of unreliable sequencing studies that received Federal financial assistance.
The Nation’s top Federal prosecutors’ office in Manhattan is headed by U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, who has unilaterally extended her term, despite the naming of her replacement. She has been busy pressing charges against individuals, like Marcus Frazier, for allegedly engaging in fraud, to obtain Paycheck Protection Program loans, as provided by the Trump administration bailout package known as the CARES Act of 2020. Mr. Frazier was arrested in April 2021 over an alleged scheme to receive $5.8 million in PPP loans that were intended to help small businesses continue to pay the wages of employees during the economic contraction related to the Coronavirus pandemic. A Biden administration bailout package known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provided the City of New York with $5.5 million in Federal financial assistance as part of a $1 billion National plan to expand genomic sequencing, according to a White House briefing fact sheet. It’s not known how the de Blasio administration is using the $5.5 million, which was scheduled for disbursement in May.
For this report, the press office supporting U.S. Attorney Strauss refused to answer several media inquiries.
As reported by Progress New York, the Manhattan Federal prosecutors’ office has refused to admit that U.S. Attorney Strauss was remaining in office under the pretexte that she was overseeing important cases against significant Defendants.
When Ms. Strauss’s predecessor, Goeffrey Berman, was being forced out as the top Federal prosecutor in Manhattan by then U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Mr. Barr alluded to a sensibility inside the U.S. Department of Justice, or DOJ, that top Government lawyers consider building a “book of business” in civil cases before making the profitable move back to the private sector. After Ms. Strauss’s first stint as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, she worked herself up into lucrative partnerships at prestigious law firms Fried Frank and Mudge Rose before eventually being named as general counsel for aluminum conglomerate Alcoa.
By refusing to step down, U.S. Attorney Strauss is defying a request made by President Joseph Biden (D) last February that Trump-era U.S. Attorneys step down, according to a report published by the Washington Post. She is also blocking the ascent of the first black U.S. Attorney as her replacement. In March, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) nominated her successor, Damian Williams.
U.S. Attorney Strauss’s daughter-in-law, Melissa DeRosa, is currently reportedly implicated in a preliminary inquiry being conducted by the Federal prosecutors’ office in Brooklyn into allegations that the Cuomo administration obstructed the release of Government data about the Coronavirus pandemic.
- COVID-19 : Data – New Variants/Strains [NYC Health]
- Delta variant begins to spread, threatening EU’s Covid progress [Financial Times]
- Letter From New York : Drop in weekly New York City COIVD-19 sequencing sample sizes prompts questions about the reliability of the weekly studies [Progress New York]
- SIDEBAR : U.S. Attorney is hanging on — but for what ? [Progress New York]