The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Long Island surpassed 300 in the latest test results released Friday, while the positivity level in testing neared 2%, according to state data.
In test results from Thursday, Nassau County registered 167 new cases and Suffolk had 152, for a total of 319. That was up from 278 the previous day, with 152 in Nassau and 126 in Suffolk, the state data shows.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would encourage private employers to impose vaccination mandates.
"I urge every employer: Go to whatever form of mandate you are comfortable with because it will help us fight COVID. And if we do that, we could actually live again fully," de Blasio said in his weekly radio appearance on WNYC’s "Brian Lehrer Show" on Friday.
On Long Island, the seven-day average for positivity in testing rose over the last three days from 1.8% to 1.86% to 1.97%, according to state data. The statewide positivity rates as well as those for Nassau and Suffolk counties have all more than doubled in two weeks.
Health officials said the numbers are rising because of the new, highly contagious delta variant, and because large numbers of people remain unvaccinated.
On top of that, most mandates such as mask wearing and social distancing have been lifted, experts say. Most people are going without masks, even those who are unvaccinated, they say.
Statewide, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 inched up, rising by nine to 492.
Patients in Long Island’s Intensive Care Units have nearly doubled in one week, to 26.
At Catholic Health Services, the number of COVID-19 patients has jumped from 10 to 25 in a week, said Dr. Jason Golbin, the system's chief medical officer.
"It’s very frustrating and somewhat upsetting to see that kind of rise," Golbin said. "We are concerned."
Still, he said, "I am hoping we will not see numbers anywhere near what we saw" at the height of the pandemic. "I do not suspect we will hit anything like that."
The majority of the hospitalized patients had not been vaccinated against the virus, Golbin said.
The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Northwell Health system, the largest health care system in the state, has remained under 100 amid this surge, but officials there are watching it warily.
"It’s just sort of staying there. I would describe it as kind of a slow burn," said Dr. David Batinelli, chief medical officer at Northwell.
"We’re worried. If we vaccinate more, we’ll be OK," Batinelli told Newsday on Friday. "The hope is we can cajole more and more people with time. … But it’s not happening."
He added that "this is the safest vaccine we’ve ever seen for any disease of all time," and urged people to get it.
Calculations by Newsday based on state data indicate that at this rate, 70% of Long Islanders will be fully vaccinated by Nov. 14, and 90% by June 16, 2022 — some two years and three months after the pandemic hit.
In New York State as a whole, 70% will be fully vaccinated by Dec. 31, and 90% by Aug. 21, 2022.
Those dates keep getting pushed back as the rate of vaccination slows, according to Newsday’s calculations.
The seven-day average statewide for positivity in testing was 1.6%, while the daily level was 1.8%, in results from Thursday.
One person in Erie County died on Thursday of causes related to the virus.
While much attention is being focused on the delta variant, Batinelli said, "What we should be talking about is the number of people who aren’t vaccinated."
New York City will open "pop-up" vaccination clinics at 25 summer-school sites throughout the five boroughs beginning Monday, an effort to get more 12- to 17-year-olds vaccinated, de Blasio said Friday morning on WNYC.
De Blasio said 43% of 12- to 17-year-olds in the city have been vaccinated with at least one dose.
Earlier in the week, De Blasio said public hospital workers would need to be vaccinated or get tested weekly, or be suspended without pay. On Friday he hinted that "in the coming days" additional city agencies would continue to impose such a mandate on municipal workers.
"We're going to have more to say in the days ahead," de Blasio said. "One thing I know we will do is we will climb that ladder."
When announcing the hospital-worker mandate, de Blasio said it was a first step. Asked whether others, including police officers, firefighters and teachers, could be next, he suggested so. He said vaccination was key to stopping the more-infectious delta variant, which now represents about 83% of sequenced virus tested nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"If people want freedom, if [they] want jobs, if people want to live again, we have got to get more people vaccinated, and obviously it's time for whatever mandates we can achieve," de Blasio said.
With Matt Clark
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