The highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 is now the second-most dominant strain in the Big Apple, it emerged Friday — as Dr. Anthony Fauci again insisted that vaccines, not masks, are the key to stopping it.
City health department data updated Friday shows that the fast-spreading variant, also known scientifically as B.1.617.2, now accounts for 17 percent of confirmed cases tested for strains — meaning it almost represents one in five infections across the Big Apple.
That’s up from around one in 10 recorded just a week ago, according to the data.
Only Alpha, the B.1.1.7 that first emerged in the UK, is more prevalent, accounting for 30 percent of samples tested.
However, less than 10 percent of confirmed cases are actually being tested for variants, suggesting the real breakdown could be far different.
“Variants of COVID-19 are circulating in NYC,” the city’s Office of Emergency Management tweeted Thursday.
“Get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself, loved ones and community,” it said.
It was the same message spread by infectious diseases expert Fauci during a White House press briefing Thursday as the variant accounts for more than a quarter of tested cases across the US.
“If you are vaccinated, you have a high degree of protection,” Fauci insisted at Thursday’s briefing.
“So you need not wear a mask, either indoor or outdoor.”
Delta — which scientists believe is at least 50 percent more transmissible than other strains — is taking advantage in areas where vaccination rates are low, warned Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Any suffering or death from COVID-19 is tragic. With vaccines available across the country, the suffering and loss we are now seeing is nearly entirely avoidable,” Walensky said, urging the unvaccinated to roll up their sleeves to help stem the spread.
With Post wires