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'A race of us against this pandemic'

Experts: Herd immunity sought to stop runaway virus

No one knows what percentage of the public must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, but experts' estimates generally range between 70% and 90%. Herd immunity would be reached when enough of the population has antibodies to the virus so that it no longer spreads widely, although there still would be some cases.

"Our goal is to reach that herd immunity as quickly as we can, both nationally and globally," said Dr. Uzma Syed, an infectious disease specialist at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip. "That's the only way we’ll get this behind us. It's essentially a race of us against this pandemic. And with more and more variants discovered, the more the urgency there is in getting people vaccinated."

Medical experts fear more contagious variants of the virus may complicate efforts to reach herd immunity, and achieving it depends on other unknowns — such as how effective vaccines are in preventing transmission and how many Americans will remain reluctant to take the vaccine.

If mutated variants spread widely and are more contagious and more resistant to vaccines, "That may significantly move the goalpost," said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

The number of new positives reported today: 664 in Nassau, 696 in Suffolk, 4,547 in New York City and 8,448 statewide.

The chart below shows the number of new coronavirus cases confirmed each day in New York City and the state.

Search a map of new cases and view charts showing the latest local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

Data: 26% more LI educators filed for retirement in 2020

Retirement applications from Long Island public school teachers, principals and other educators spiked last year, data shows, reflecting the pandemic's impact on education.

More than 2,000 educators in Nassau and Suffolk counties filed for retirement in 2020, a 26% increase over 2019, when some 1,600 put in their papers, according to data provided to Newsday by the New York State Teachers' Retirement System.

The increase was not exclusive to Long Island. Statewide, nearly 8,000 educators in the Teachers' Retirement System filed for retirement last year, an 11% increase over 2019. Those numbers do not include New York City public school teachers.

Fears about the safety of in-person instruction and difficulties adapting to remote learning fueled the trend, local educators said — and at no small cost. One local teacher said she's missing out on $10,000 in annual pension earnings by retiring sooner than planned.

The spike in retirements could contribute to a teacher shortage, fears Roger Tilles, who represents Long Island on New York's Board of Regents.

Experts: Young children won't get COVID-19 vaccines until 2022

Most children probably won't be able to receive COVID-19 vaccines until 2022, as research on them lags months behind studies on adults, experts say.

Pediatricians disagree on whether vaccine clinical trials involving children should have begun earlier. But they concur that vaccinations of kids would help protect both them and adults in their household, hasten the arrival of herd immunity — when the virus' ability to spread is greatly limited — and return kids to a more normal childhood.

"Vaccination is a really important tool in our tool kit for allowing kids to fully get back to all of those things that are really important to their health and development," said Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, citing the social isolation and academic disruptions the pandemic has caused.

Jennifer Bohr-Cuevas of Huntington said she is eager to see her 12-year-old son, Jesse Cuevas, get a vaccine.

"I have seen firsthand what COVID has done to people with underlying conditions," said Bohr-Cuevas, whose aunt and uncle died of COVID-19. "So, being the mother of a child with, one, epilepsy, and, secondly, a heart condition, and he's also autistic, the thought of him contracting COVID terrifies me."

NYC opening mass vaccination site at Citi Field

A new mass COVID-19 vaccination site will open Wednesday at Citi Field, while public school students in grades six to eight will come back to school for in-person instruction starting Feb. 25, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

He said teachers and staff will return a day earlier.

The site at the Mets ballpark will give preference to residents of Queens along with taxi drivers and food service workers, de Blasio said. It follows the opening of a similar site last week at Yankee Stadium that is only for residents of the Bronx, a borough especially hard-hit by the pandemic.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Monday that New York City restaurants will be able to open at 25% capacity this Friday so those businesses can bring back staff and get their operations running for the big dining-out day on Valentine's Day, which is Sunday. Initially he set the return of indoor dining to the city for Valentine's Day — but now says it's "a reasonable request" that they want to be ready for that day.

More to know

The governor said Sunday New York's rate of new positive COVID-19 cases is the lowest in more than two months. The good news came on Super Bowl Sunday, with some health experts and Cuomo worrying that watch parties could cause a resurgence in cases.

High-ranking Democrats are calling for ending the emergency powers granted to Cuomo at the beginning of the pandemic.

Texas Rep. Ron Wright became the first member of Congress to die of COVID-19.

Black New Yorkers are far less likely to receive COVID-19 vaccines than other state residents, health department data shows.

South Africa suspended its Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine drive after disappointing early results in a small clinical trial. The health minister said Sunday night, "The AstraZeneca vaccine appeared effective against the original strain, but not against the variant," which is dominant there.

The U.S. Navy said Monday it will hold a "Virtual Fleet Week" in New York City for the second straight year.

Christie Brinkley got her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

News for you

Brrrr-unch is served! On Jan. 17, Michelle and Richard Dittmar hosted a small gathering at their home in Islip Terrace after hitting a hiking trail with friends in Connetquot River State Park Preserve. On the menu: fresh bagels, steaming coffee and a sweet-tart lemon cake. On the guests: hats, gloves, thermal layers and masks, all fitting garb for a socially distanced backyard get-together when the temperature is hovering around 40 degrees. Open-air winter gatherings may not be everyone's cup of iced tea, but there are Long Islanders going that route to mark milestones and happy occasions in small gatherings.

Back after a 10-month coronavirus hiatus. Traffic induced veteran chef Ken Arnone to open his fast-casual Italian roast shop Arrosto Italian Rotisserie on Route 110 in Farmingdale in 2019. When he shut it down in mid-March, the traffic had virtually dematerialized. But it's picked back up, and he reopened his restaurant recently.

Getting in on PPP 2.0. That will be the topic at hand in a Newsday Live conversation Tuesday at 10 a.m. Sign up.

Plus: Speaking of winter hikes, here are five ideas to get you going, from Woodbury to Orient Beach State Park.

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Commentary

Vaccine success at Peconic Landing a story worth repeating. Residents of Peconic Landing won the lottery last week, when representatives from Stony Brook Medicine showed up to the Greenport retirement community to administer about 650 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Newsday says in an editorial.

State, county and hospital officials must find ways to replicate that success story. Similar partnerships could allow hospital systems or local governments to rapidly administer the vaccines to other vulnerable communities across the Island.

Newsday's editorial board has advocated for that, and it seems state officials finally are ready to make that happen. Gov. Cuomo's longtime adviser, Larry Schwartz, told the editorial board last week that he would work with other state and local officials to develop a map of similar retirement communities in Nassau and Suffolk and then arrange for hospitals to coordinate vaccinating the residents.

That's a crucial, welcome step in what has been a frustrating process for the region's older residents, many of whom are worried about how and when they can get their shots.

Health