Amid declining COVID-19 case totals, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday dropped both Nassau and Suffolk counties from high to medium risk of community spread, indicating a continued risk for contracting the virus.
The medium risk level means Long Island residents should consider wearing masks indoors if they are at high risk of getting sick and consider regular testing before coming into contact with vulnerable household members, the CDC said. The agency also recommends that Nassau and Suffolk residents stay up to date on their vaccinations and boosters and follow isolation requirements if they test positive for the virus.
Long Island's seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate Thursday was just over 6%, slightly lower than the statewide average of 6.6%, according to state Health Department data.
Nassau reported 329 new cases and four COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, while Suffolk reported 279 and three deaths, the data shows.
A total of 568 COVID-positive patients were hospitalized on Long Island as of Thursday, although less than half were admitted for complications related to the virus, the Health Department said. Those numbers are down from the 912 COVID hospitalizations on Long Island on Jan. 3 — the highest numbers seen since February 2022, the data shows.
While deaths and hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 have increased in recent weeks, this year's winter pandemic surge pales in comparison to numbers in both 2021 and 2022, according to state and federal data.
For example, on Jan. 11, 2022, when the omicron variant first took hold, there were 2,254 people hospitalized on Long Island.
“I think we have seen a much more limited surge of COVID cases than was predicted, which is a good thing,” Andrew Pekosz, professor and vice chair of the department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Newsday last week.
One major factor driving cases in New York is the recent dominance of the highly contagious XBB. 1.5 omicron subvariant, experts said. It currently accounts for more than half of the new cases in the state.
The omicron variant sparked a wave of infections and hospitalizations when it emerged in late 2021. The vaccine, created to battle the original form of the virus, appeared to be less effective in preventing transmission and illness. But while XBB. 1.5 and other recent subvariants spread faster, experts say they do not appear to cause a more severe form of COVID-19.