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NY COVID-19 patients in hospitals more than doubled in past 16 days

Jolanta Gawlik gives Juliana Cepeda, 20, the Pfizer

Jolanta Gawlik gives Juliana Cepeda, 20, the Pfizer vaccine on Friday in New York City. Credit: AP/Mark Lennihan

The number of New Yorkers hospitalized with COVID-19 has more than doubled in the past 16 days, and Long Island’s positivity rate has increased 700% in the past month, as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread, state data released Saturday shows.

The 2.86% seven-day average of positive coronavirus test results Friday on Long Island is up from 0.35% on June 29, part of a weekslong rise as hundreds of thousands of Island residents remain unvaccinated, masks are increasingly shunned and research reveals how dangerous the delta variant is.

Dr. David Hirschwerk, an infectious disease expert and interim chairman of medicine at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in Hempstead, expects numbers to continue to tick up as long as many people remain unvaccinated and don't wear masks.

"If people start to be more mindful of the current situation and wear masks when they’re gathering with large groups inside, and try to spend more time outside, that will hopefully start to contribute to the lowering of the rate," he said.

But, he said, vaccinations are the key to controlling the virus' spread. If a lot more people were vaccinated, "we would be experiencing a much, much lower rate of transmission at this point," he said.

The outbreak in New York is much less severe than in states with low vaccination rates, like Louisiana, which had 620 new cases per 100,000 people for the week ending midafternoon Saturday, compared with 58 cases in New York outside New York City, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Statewide, the seven-day positivity rate was 2.40% on Friday, up from 2.28% on Thursday. A year ago, when mask, capacity and other restrictions were in place, the rate was 1%.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide rose to 699, up from 657, compared with 340 on July 14. On Long Island, there were 123 people hospitalized, up from 118 on Thursday and 53 on July 15.

Two Suffolk and three Queens residents died of COVID-19, the state reported.

Although the number of people newly vaccinated remains much lower than in the spring, the pace of vaccination has risen over the past few weeks.

On Long Island, as of Friday, the seven-day average of people receiving their first vaccine doses each day — 3,662 — was 57% higher than the low point on July 10, when the seven-day average was 2,326. The average dipped slightly on Friday; Thursday’s seven-day number, 3,666, was the highest since June 24.

Although new research shows the delta variant infects vaccinated people more easily than previous versions of the coronavirus, and that those vaccinated people can infect others, the vaccines still reduce the chance of infection — and make serious illness or death far less likely, Hirschwerk said.

Nassau County has the state's highest percentage of adult residents with at least one dose, 82.6%, and is tied for third for the share of all residents with one shot or more, 69%. In Suffolk, 75.3% of adults have at least one dose, and 62.5% of all residents do.

Nassau Executive Laura Curran in a statement Saturday said: "The spread of the Delta variant poses a serious risk — especially if you’re unvaccinated. I urge all eligible residents, especially public-facing workers, to get vaccinated."

With Matt Clark

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