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New COVID-19 cases climb on LI, almost as high as last summer at this time

The Town of Islip, in partnership with Good Samaritan Hospital, has launched a new vaccination site on the grounds of the Brentwood Recreation Center. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Long Island is seeing levels of new cases of COVID-19 that are nearly as high as last summer's, despite a massive vaccination program launched earlier this year, according to the latest state figures.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Long Island has nearly doubled in the last week, fueled by the highly contagious delta variant and a substantial segment of the population that is not vaccinated, according to the data and medical experts.

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Long Island is seeing levels of new cases of COVID-19 that are nearly as high as last summer's, despite a massive vaccination program launched earlier this year, according to the latest state figures.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Long Island has nearly doubled in the last week, fueled by the highly contagious delta variant and a substantial segment of the population that is not vaccinated, according to the data and medical experts.

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Long Island's seven-day daily average of new cases reached 109 in the latest results released Wednesday, compared to 117 on July 14, 2020.

Just a week ago, the seven-day daily average on Long Island was 63 cases per day.

In the latest daily numbers, Long Island had a total of 132 cases in test results from Tuesday — 72 in Nassau County and 60 in Suffolk County. New York City had 476.

Long Island's positivity rate reached 1.1%, compared to 1.2% reported one year ago. New York State reached 1.0% compared to 1.1%, while New York City reached 1% compared to 1.1%.

At least one health expert said the trends are concerning, although he noted that last summer was a low point in COVID-19 indicators.

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"It is alarming, as it is increasing fairly rapidly," said Dr. Lorry Rubin, director of pediatric infectious diseases at Northwell Health. "Still low numbers, but just concern about where that may go."

He said the main factor was the spread of the delta variant, along with the substantial number of people who are still unvaccinated.

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"There’s no question that if we had a higher vaccination rate that the impact of this delta variant would be blunted," he said.

He noted that recent testing showed that 45% of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York City were caused by the delta variant.

Medical experts also say the numbers are rising because most mandates such as mask wearing and social distancing have been dropped, and people are eager to get back to normal activities — even if they are not vaccinated.

Scientists say vaccines greatly reduce death and severe illness that requires hospitalization, even if a vaccinated person tests positive for the virus. State officials reported 55 hospitalizations Tuesday on Long Island, down from 65 a week earlier, but up from 50 on July 9.

COVID-19 indicators have been increasing for more than two weeks on Long Island and statewide. For the fourth straight day Tuesday, the daily positivity level in testing for the virus was above 1% statewide.

Nassau's rate of new daily cases is increasing faster than Suffolk's and its average exceeds that seen one year ago. For the seven days ending July 13, there were 62 new positive test results per day in Nassau, an increase of 82.4% over the 34 new cases per day seen a week earlier. One year ago, Nassau's seven-day average of new cases was 48.

Nassau's rate of increase exceeds that seen statewide (69.6%) and in New York City (74.7%).

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Overall, Long Island's daily case average increased 73% in one week.

In Suffolk, the increase in the daily case average was 62.1%, from 29 cases to 47. One year ago, Suffolk's daily average was 69.

Throughout the state, two people died Tuesday of causes linked to the virus. One of the fatalities was in Nassau County.

Meanwhile, epidemiologists at Yale University estimate that New York City’s vaccination campaign has prevented about 250,000 COVID-19 cases, 44,000 hospitalizations and 8,300 deaths from the virus, officials said Wednesday.

The study looked at the impact of the city’s vaccination campaign from its start through July 1.

The city Department of Health also released data showing how vaccines prevent disease or death.

From Jan. 1 to June 15, some 98.4% of hospitalizations and 98.8% of deaths from COVID-19 infection were people who were not fully vaccinated, the department said.

"Vaccines are safe and astonishingly effective at protecting you and your loved ones," Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi said in a statement.

"Our city has been through too much suffering to allow hospitalizations and death to needlessly continue. The stakes are so high, and we simply cannot emphasize enough how urgent it is for New Yorkers to get vaccinated."

Asked Wednesday at a news conference at a Brooklyn church about a report that New York, unlike states including California, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, publicizes only COVID deaths that are lab-confirmed, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state has always reported cases this way.

"As far as the COVID reporting, we have always reported lab-tested COVID results. That’s what our reporting has always been. CDC asks for additional information on — I forget their terminology, possible or presumed COVID deaths, which we report to them, and then they report."

With Matthew Chayes

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