Long Island’s seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate passed 2% for the first time since April on Friday, as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread and new vaccinations remain a fraction of what they were several months ago.
Friday was the second day in a row that more than 300 Long Islanders tested positive for the virus. The 338 new cases — 174 in Nassau and 164 in Suffolk — are more than 11 times higher than the 30 residents who received positive results on June 29.
The 2.08% seven-day positivity rate for Long Island was the highest since April 28, state health department data shows. Less than a month ago, on June 29, the seven-day rate was 0.35%.
Last summer, when mask mandates, capacity restrictions and other COVID-19 rules remained in place, but before vaccines were available, positivity rates routinely were below 1%.
Dr. Bruce Farber, infectious disease specialist at Northwell Health, said with so many unvaccinated people not wearing masks in public places, it’s not surprising that rates continue to rise.
"The number of people who are fully vaccinated is not enough for us to be anything close to what anyone would deem herd immunity," he said Saturday.
No huge spikes in New York
Even so, enough New Yorkers are fully vaccinated — partial vaccination does not sufficiently protect most people from the delta variant — that New York is not seeing the huge spikes in cases and severely ill people that states with low vaccination levels are experiencing, he said. Fifty-six percent of all New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, state data shows.
"Our hospitalization rates have gone up, but from an extraordinarily low baseline, as has our positivity rate and the number of cases," Farber said. "Look at Florida, look at Alabama, look at Missouri. Their rates of hospitalization in selected areas are very high, and their numbers of cases are much higher on a per capita basis."
On Long Island, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 rose to 87, from 84, while the number in intensive care fell slightly, to 23 from 26.
Farber said those numbers would be higher if it weren't for the high vaccination rates among those most vulnerable to severe COVID-19. Almost all of those hospitalized at Northwell Health hospitals are unvaccinated, and the very few who are vaccinated are older adults or those with serious health conditions, and they tend to spend less time in the hospital, he said.
Nearly 85% of adults 65 to 74 statewide are fully vaccinated, while fewer than half those 16 to 25 are, state data shows.
Nassau has highest vaccination rate
Nearly 47,000 vaccine doses were administered statewide in the 24 hours ending 11 a.m. Saturday. That’s a big drop since the early spring, when on many days more than 200,000 New Yorkers were being vaccinated.
Nassau continues to have the highest vaccination rate of any large county in New York: 81.6% of adults have received at least one shot, and 68.1% of residents of all ages are at least partially vaccinated.
"Nassau County has one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, but we must continue getting shots into arms in order to protect our progress and combat more infectious variants of the virus," Nassau Executive Laura Curran said in a statement Saturday. "The vaccine is saving lives every day."
Nassau has the third-highest adult vaccination rate of the nation’s 40 most populous counties, according to Curran’s office.
Suffolk’s adult vaccination rate is 74.4%, and 61.6% for the entire population.
The state's one COVID-19 death Friday — of a Queens resident — matches the lowest death total since the pandemic began, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office said.
Long Island's one-day positivity rate was 2.2%, state figures show. The state's one-day positivity rate was 1.86%, with a seven-day average of 1.66%. Epidemiologists typically focus on seven-day rates because they smooth out daily anomalies.
Long Island’s seven-day 2.08% rate is the second-highest in the state, after the Albany area.