Following controversies over the NYC weekly variant sequencing studies, the data underpinning the most recent study showed a restatement of sample sizes that revealed NYC was capable of greater sequencing.
By Progress New York Staff
Updated 19 July 2021 10:00 When NYC Healthy, the City’s health ministry, released on Thursday data supporting its most recent weekly Coronavirus variant sequencing study, the data revealed a retroäctive restatement of the sample sizes used for the weekly studies going back to the first week of January 2021, according to data analysis performed by Progress New York. The restatement followed questions raised by Progress New York in several reports, and it followed a bombshell report published by the New York Times that examined the preparedness by Mayor Bill de Blasio (WFP-New York City) to manage the Delta variant outbreak in New York City.
Some restated weekly variant sequencing studies showed a net increase of sample sizes that approached 400 additional specimens of COVID-19 cases in week, for example, according to data analysis performed by Progress New York. One of the issues raised in a prior report published by Progress New York was that the sample sizes of the weekly studies had been observed to be too small, according to a data model created by Progress New York. But deemed more important than the sample size was the lack of transparency about whether the weekly specimens adequately reflected the population of tests administered at large centres, small centres, and home testing. Without knowing that information, it would be difficult for the public to have confidence in the weekly variant sequencing studies, a source told Progress New York. Information about the proportions of the sample sizes vis-à-vis testing locations were missing from the latest release of data, so the lack of transparency continues.
For this report, the press office supporting Mayor de Blasio refused to answer an interview request.
The Delta variant has supplanted the Alpha variant as the dominant strain of the Coronavirus in New York City. Tensions are rising over the Government’s preparedness.
The rise of the Delta variant has taken a near vertical shape, according to visualisation of data by Progress New York. Similar rises are taking place across the Nation. In Los Angeles County, new cases of Coronavirus are increasing, and the test positivity rate stood at 3,7 per cent. — in excess of the 3 per cent. threshold that triggered the closure of public schools in New York City in the first year of the pandemic. On Friday, Mayor de Blasio resisted calls to embrace a return to indoor masking mandates, as instituted by Los Angeles County, according to a report of his remarks made on WNYC 93.9 FM public radio.
Mayor de Blasio has repeatedly advanced a vaccine-only response to the Delta variant, a strategy that has fallen short in Israel and the U.K., where vaccination rates are higher compared to the U.S. Indeed, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (Yamina-Israel) stated that the Pfizer vaccine was “weaker” than health ministers had hoped, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post, which noted that the Israeli Government would enforce mask-wearing. Critics of the Mayor de Blasio’s response to the Delta variant have pointed to the shortcomings of a vaccine-only response, and these critics have advocated for the return of non-pharmaceutical interventions, or NPI’s, such as wearing face masks in indoor settings, banning large indoor gatherings, and encouraging outdoor activities. Some of those critics included Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiologist at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, according to the bombshell Times report.
The Government is increasingly blaming social media platforms for vaccine hesitancy.
President Joseph Biden (D) on Friday blamed the social media giant Facebook for “misinformation” that he said was responsible for vaccine hesitancy, according to a report published by the CNN cable news network. In return, a Facebook official said that President Biden was looking for a scapegoat to blame for having missed his vaccination target. There are three vaccines that can be administered to residents in the U.S., but the economy was reöpened before vaccination rates were sufficient to ensure wide-scale immunity.
Separately, a report published by POLITICO triggered public consternation — and denials — that allies to President Biden, such as the Democratic National Committee, reportedly planned to work with SMS carriers to dispel pandemic misinformation shared by text messages.
But the de Blasio administration has yet to admit its own role in undermining public confidence in pandemic data. Besides failing to release information about whether the proportion of samples used in the sequencing studies match the proportion of COVID-19 tests conducted in each major type of test setting, the administration’s chief health minister has gone a step further to discredit testing data. “Test positivity is becoming a little less valuable as a metric as testing patterns change,” Dr. Dave Chokshi, the City’s top health minister said during a press conference on 06 July. The de Blasio administration has been responsible, in part, for eroding test positivity as a tool to measure the spread of the Coronavirus in New York City, because the administration has discouraged testing by vaccinated individuals, thus contributing to the lack of information about vaccine escape. Such changes in the testing population can make it difficult to draw meaningful inferences from raw data. Now, the unexplained restatement of data that underpin the weekly variant sequencing studies adds to public confusion.
As reported by Progress New York, a prior restatement of City COVID-19 data took place with the information released for the week ending 06 June. In the time between the two restatements of data, a report in the Financial Times estimated the prevalence of the Delta variant in the U.S. at a rate five (5) times than the City’s reported prevalence of the Delta variant in New York City, the former epicentre of the pandemic, according a report published by Progress New York.
On the State level, the Government’s obfuscation of the pandemic death toll in nursing homes has triggered a preliminary inquiry by the top Federal prosecutors’ office in Brooklyn. A controversy also threatens to engulf State reporting of pandemic deaths in public jails. On the Federal level, the Government has decided against investigating mild breakthrough cases of COVID-19, or cases that occur when vaccinated individuals test positive for the Coronavirus. The decision by the Feds threatens to keep the medical community in the dark, just as Coronavirus variants become capable of vaccine escape.
How does the CDC know breakthrough infections are usually mild if they don’t investigate? They’re investigating those involving hospitalization/death, & relying on voluntary reports from state & local health departments. They aren’t counting LongCovid. https://t.co/xMn1aiteid
— Laura Miers (@LauraMiers) July 18, 2021
And I am once again saying wtf to these case numbers in relation to hospital numbers. Delta doesn’t have a 20% hospitalization rate. That means the actual case numbers are MUCH higher.
— Incindery 🔥 (@Incindery1) July 19, 2021
Dates, not data.
Mayor de Blasio promised to reöpen the New York City economy on 1 July. After meddling by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), the date was moved up to 8 June. The reöpening took place with only 3,9 million double-vaccinated doses having been administered in New York City, according to City data, representing less than half of New York City residents. (The City data includes vaccine doses given to non-residents.) In the U.K., the economy is set to open up on Monday, 19 July, where current data show 53 per cent. of subjects are double-vaccinated. Yet, the U.K. is in the throes of another wave of COVID-19 infections, due to the spread of the Delta variant, a strain that is reportedly highly-transmissible. Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the U.K. medical journal Lancet, said in remarks shared on Twitter that what is driving the reckless reopening of the economy in the face of such risks to public health “is ideology from the libertarian Right.”
As reported by Progress New York, the Pandemic Response Lab, the medical facility responsible for sequencing variants in New York City, was created by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, or the NYCEDC. That the NYCEDC was behind the lab’s creation presents an appearance of a conflict of interest, because the chambres of commerce in New York City have been pressuring Mayor de Blasio to reöpen the economy, so that workers can return to office buildings that still largely remain empty. It is not known whether at least some of the issues with the quality of the City’s COVID-19 data is a result of the appearance of a conflict of interest for the NYCEDC. 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.
For this report, the top Federal prosecutors’ office in Manhattan, which claims jurisdiction over controversies involving Federal regulations or Federal funding, declined to comment about ongoing and continuing questions about the integrity and transparency of pandemic data made available by the de Blasio administration.
- And the masks came off : Mayor de Blasio’s vaccine-only policy hits a bump, as a Columbia University scientist invokes WHO’s mask recommendation [Progress New York]
- de Blasio mum after New York City Delta variant prevalence of 6% diverges from National estimate of 31%, as revealed in FT model
[Progress New York]
- 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]