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Pandemic not over, experts say, as new COVID-19 cases on Long Island top 900

"The virus isn't gone. It's just here in

"The virus isn't gone. It's just here in lesser numbers. Take the mask off, give it more oxygen, and the fire gets bigger," Dr. David Battinelli, vice president and chief medical officer of Northwell Health, said Tuesday about COVID-19. He is shown in December 2020. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

The number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Long Island more than doubled on Tuesday compared with the previous day, surpassing 900, as medical experts warned that the pandemic is far from over.

Long Island logged 963 new cases in test results from Monday, up from the 461 on Sunday. The figure was 914 on Saturday.

The latest case counts included 407 in Nassau County and 556 in Suffolk County. New York City registered 1,545 new cases.

The seven-day average for positivity in testing for the virus appeared to be leveling off somewhat on Long Island. It hit 4.18% in test results from Monday, 4.12% in results from Sunday, and 4.23% in results from Saturday.

Despite that — and the ups and downs of the numbers — medical experts said Tuesday that the pandemic likely was to be a fact of life for many months and even years to come.

"Every single time the numbers level off or come down, we think the virus is gone. It’s a major, major mistake," said Dr. David Battinelli, vice president and chief medical officer at Northwell Health. "The virus isn’t gone. It’s just here in lesser numbers. Take the mask off, give it more oxygen, and the fire gets bigger."

He added: "People continually need to be reminded that this isn’t over. Until everyone in the world is either vaccinated or infected, the disease will continue to run rampant … there will continue to be variants."

Sean Clouston, an associate professor of public health at Stony Brook University, said the numbers on Long Island had leveled off partly because — unlike much of the United States — Long Island schools opened for the year with a mask mandate.

But he said it also was worrisome that there were this many cases at this time of the year — before we head into the fall and holiday events, including Halloween and Thanksgiving, which may boost gatherings and trigger a "big peak."

Jason Golbin, executive vice president and chief medical officer of Catholic Health Services, said, "The number of new COVID patients across Catholic Health’s six hospitals have flattened, but we do continue to see new cases. The overwhelming majority of patients with the virus are those who are unvaccinated. We continue to encourage all who are eligible to get the vaccine and take preventive measures such as wearing a mask when around a large group of people indoors."

Battinelli noted that last summer Long Island and New York State had far fewer COVID-19 cases and deaths than this summer, even though there was no vaccine. But the low numbers were because people were wearing masks and socially distancing.

The numbers are plateauing now mainly because people are wearing masks again, he said.

That had stopped in recent months, but in the last six weeks many people are back to wearing masks because the case numbers are rising again. "The masking is going to be around for a while, because it works," Battinelli said. "The mask is protective."

The number of people hospitalized in the state because of the virus increased by 85, to 2,476, according to state data released Tuesday.

Across the state, 28 people — including two each in Nassau and Suffolk — died on Monday of causes related to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Tuesday marked the reopening of several more Broadway shows, including "Hamilton," "Wicked," "The Lion King" and "Chicago," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in celebrating at his daily news conference.

The first one opened last month: "Pass Over," a modern spin on "Waiting for Godot." Shows must follow pandemic mandates, including masking and vaccination.

Separately, de Blasio said 82% of students returned Monday for the first day of public school, the first full reopening since the pandemic, compared with about 90% in previous years. But, he said he did not know specifically what the 82% figure represents — what the denominator is, for example.

With Matthew Chayes

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Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the surname of Jason Golbin, executive vice president and chief medical officer of Catholic Health Services.

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