Increased travel may be one factor in a rise of...

Increased travel may be one factor in a rise of COVID cases, said Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Credit: Corey Sipkin

COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations on Long Island have doubled in the past month, although far fewer people are getting severely ill and dying from the disease than last summer and at the beginning of the year, state data shows.

There were 127 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Long Island on Thursday, compared with 61 a month earlier, on June 27, Department of Health statistics show.

The seven-day average of positivity rates — the percentage of officially reported COVID-19 tests coming back positive — was 9.7% on Long Island for the week ending Thursday, with 976 confirmed cases that week, compared with 4.5%, and 538 cases, for the week ending June 27.

Experts caution that those numbers are huge undercounts, because they only represent PCR lab tests reported to the state. Most people get tested at home, and many never get tested at all, especially after many insurance companies stopped paying for the tests in May, experts say.


  • COVID-19 hospitalizations on Long Island more than doubled in the past month, from 61 to 127, and the seven-day average of positivity rates also is more than twice as large, rising from 4.5% to 9.7% in the past month.
  • Rates also are increasing statewide and nationwide. Reasons include a return to pre-pandemic routines and a long period of time for many people since the most recent vaccine shot or previous COVID-19 illness, experts say.
  • Hospitalization and death numbers are still significantly below those from last summer. Immunity from vaccination or previous infection, and a possibly less lethal virus subvariant, may help explain why, experts say.

Hospitalizations and positivity rates also are rising statewide and nationwide, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show.

Experts cite a return to pre-pandemic routines that put people at higher risk of getting infected, and waning immunity from vaccines or previous infections.

Increased travel may be one factor, said Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

“We are pretty much back to travel rates as they were in 2019,” she said. “So you're seeing international travel, you're seeing travel across the United States; people are flying.”


Someone is more likely to contract the virus if a long time has passed since a previous infection or vaccine shot, and if exposed to a different subvariant than in the past, said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of pediatric infectious diseases for Stony Brook Medicine.

The XBB.1.5 subvariant of omicron had been dominant in New York for several months through May, but another subvariant, XBB.1.9, is now the most common, state data shows.

Case and hospitalization numbers typically have been higher in the winter than summer, when people tend to spend more time in lower-risk environments outdoors. But COVID-19 is not as seasonal as the flu, so fluctuations are to be expected year-round, said Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside.

Fluctuations are to be expected year-round, said Dr. Aaron Glatt.

Fluctuations are to be expected year-round, said Dr. Aaron Glatt. Credit: Jeff Bachner

At Stony Brook University Hospital, most patients sick enough with COVID-19 to require hospitalization are unvaccinated, are vaccinated but never got booster shots, have a health condition that makes them more susceptible to severe COVID-19, or have a combination of two of those factors, Nachman said.

Although positivity rates are roughly similar to what they were at this time last summer, and early last winter, the number of hospitalizations and deaths is much lower.

“We have very few critically ill people” with COVID-19, said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology at Northwell Health.


Twenty-five Long Islanders have died of COVID-19 so far this month, as of Thursday, compared with 76 from July 1-27, 2022, state data shows.

The 127 people hospitalized on the Island with COVID-19 on Thursday compares with 484 hospitalizations on July 27, 2022, and 912 on Jan. 3, the peak of winter hospitalizations.

Farber said that’s partly because of underlying immunity from vaccines — which reduce the severity of illness, even months after the last injection — and from previous COVID-19 infections.

In addition, Silvera said, early data shows that subvariants of COVID-19 now circulating appear to be less likely to cause severe illness than previous subvariants, even though they are believed to be more infectious.

Hospitalization data includes some patients who were admitted for another health condition and later tested positive for COVID-19, but “it’s a reasonable assumption” that there is a lower percentage of those types of cases than in the past, because many hospitals have stopped routinely testing all patients for the virus upon admission, Glatt said.

Farber said that, with the increase in cases, people most at risk of severe COVID-19 — which includes those with serious underlying medical conditions and people over 75 — “need to be more careful. I’m not sure the whole population does.”

Glatt said those most vulnerable also should make sure they are up-to-date on vaccinations and, if they do get sick with COVID-19, obtain a prescription for Paxlovid, which greatly reduces the chances of hospitalization or death in high-risk people.

COVID-19 numbers will continue to go up and down for years to come, he said.

“It’s unfortunately probably going to be around for the rest of our lives,” Glatt said of COVID-19.

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