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LI pop-ups vaccinating 3,700 in hard-hit areas

State: New LI pop-up sites to vaccinate hardest-hit areas

A pop-up site that opened Thursday morning in Freeport and another that will open on Friday in Brentwood are among the 12 sites statewide that are part of an effort to ensure "social equity and fairness" in vaccinations, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

When the effort is completed, they're expected to have vaccinated a combined 3,700 people.

The focus, Cuomo spokesman Jack Sterne said, is on communities "hard-hit by COVID, that have less access to health care generally and … lower rates of vaccination."

Unlike the large state sites at Jones Beach and at Stony Brook University, these sites will focus on vaccinating people in the surrounding communities, he said. They may be easier for residents to get to than those larger sites, he said.

Brentwood has the most virus cases per capita of any major community on Long Island, and Freeport has a per capita caseload above that of the rest of Nassau County, a Newsday analysis of county data shows. Latino and Black residents compose the majority in both communities.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 positivity levels continued a steady decline statewide, Cuomo said. The statewide seven-day average was 3.34%, the lowest since Nov. 27, he said. The average on Long Island was 4.17%, a slight uptick from the previous day, while New York City's level was 4.37%.

The number of new positives reported today: 695 in Nassau, 721 in Suffolk, 4,313 in New York City and 8,746 statewide.

The chart below shows the positivity averages across Nassau and Suffolk in recent days.

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

Some vaccinated at Jones Beach were left waiting to hear from state

After the state’s revelation that 81 people had been injected on Feb. 15 with syringes containing an ineffective coronavirus vaccine at a Jones Beach drive-in site, the governor’s office promised emails would be sent to the 1,298 others vaccinated there that day to assure them their shots were effective.

Those assurances had all been sent out by Thursday afternoon, Jack Sterne, a spokesman for Cuomo said — three days after the public disclosure about what happened at Jones Beach and hours after a Newsday story Thursday morning reported that at least some, and possibly all 1,298 of the people, had not received the emails.

By mid-afternoon, some said they got the emails; some hadn't. Stuart Levy, 84, of Merrick, got the email Thursday afternoon, said his daughter Jill Levy. Since Monday, she had tried calling the state’s vaccine hotline to no avail, after not getting the email for days.

LIRR scaling back service again with ridership down

The Long Island Rail Road — still reeling from declining ridership due to the pandemic — will further cut the number of trains it runs starting next month, bringing weekday service levels close to those on weekends.

The LIRR is carrying fewer than a quarter of the passengers than it did before COVID-19 and already has trimmed its weekday schedule by around 20%. The forthcoming changes trim another 5%, bringing weekday to around 75% of pre-pandemic levels.

LIRR service continues 24/7, but the changes — effective March 8 — will reduce train intervals to hourly during middays on the Ronkonkoma, Hempstead, Far Rockaway, Port Washington and Long Beach branches, and half hourly on the Babylon and Huntington lines. Trains will operate every 90 minutes between Huntington and Port Jefferson, and every two hours on the West Hempstead Branch and to and from Speonk. Trains will run more frequently on most branches during peak hours.

Panel: Herd immunity is the only path toward normalcy

When it comes to the coronavirus, reaching so-called "herd immunity" is the only way for us to regain any semblance of normalcy, experts speaking at the latest Newsday Live webinar said.

During the virtual event "Health & COVID-19: 'I'm Vaccinated, Now What?'" experts said even if you've received both vaccine doses and are fully vaccinated, it remains unclear if you're fully protected against all strains of COVID-19 — or if you can spread the virus.

Even recipients who've been fully vaccinated still need to wear a mask, practice social distancing and follow other safety protocols, the webinar experts said.

Read more and watch the full webinar here.

More to know

The Long Island Marathon will take place during the third weekend in September instead of in May, to ensure the race occurs safely amid COVID-19, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

Flu season is usually at its peak in February, but not this year — reports of flu cases in the U.S. have been coming in at far lower levels during the pandemic than anything seen in decades.

The arts and entertainment sector has fared better on Long Island than in New York City during the pandemic, according to data from the state comptroller’s office.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week in a sign that layoffs may have eased, but applications for aid remain historically high.

Country-music singer Trisha Yearwood is recovering from COVID-19, her husband Garth Brooks said.

News for you

Getting back to a Ducks game. The Ducks released their 2021 schedule and are hopeful that some fans will be permitted in the ballpark this season. The Ducks open the season at home on May 28 and have submitted a COVID-19 ballpark readiness plan to Suffolk County and state health officials.

Don't postpone filing your tax return. It's that time of the year, and experts say you'll want to leave yourself enough time to read the rules carefully and take advantage of every break you're entitled to.

What to expect from the new streaming service. New programming on Paramount+ will include revivals of "Inside Amy Schumer," "Frasier," "Criminal Minds," and more. The announcements from parent company Viacom come ahead of transitioning its streaming service CBS All Access to Paramount+ on March 4.

Plus, next week: Join Newsday Live for a virtual discussion on Wednesday with health experts as they discuss new findings on COVID-19 variants, how to protect against them and vaccine efficacy. Register here.

Sign up for text messages to get the most important coronavirus news and information.

Commentary

'Real' fans at MSG, Barclays something to cheer about. Barbara Barker writes in a column for Newsday Sports: Normal? No, this is not normal. But it is a baby step in the right direction. For the first time since COVID shut down the New York area in mid-March, there were real fans in the seats at professional sporting events here Tuesday night.

The lucky few — some might say the brave bordering on foolish few — lined up outside of Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn before game time. They came carrying hand sanitizer, a basketball jones and proof on their mobile phones of having had a negative COVID test in the last 72 hours.

"The feeling of being able to go to a Knicks game after work is comforting to me," said Devon, a lawyer who grew up on Long Island but asked that his last name not be used. "This kind of feels like a return to normalcy."

All told, 2,000 were allowed inside the Garden to see the Knicks take on Golden State. There were 300 at the Barclays Center to watch the Nets face Sacramento, a trial run for when 1,800 likely will be permitted inside after the All-Star Break.

The games were the first being played before actual paying customers since March 8, 2020. Both teams played that night with the Nets defeating the Bulls, 110-107, and the Knicks defeating the Pistons, 96-84.

So much we never could have imagined has gone down since that night. For the sake of finishing this column without dissolving into tears, the discussion here will be limited to changes in the sporting world. Keep reading.

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