The steady low number of new COVID-19 cases is paving the way for a more traditional Memorial Day on Long Island.
With over half of adults in New York fully vaccinated against COVID-19, many people can shed their masks at the beach, barbecues and on the boardwalk when the unofficial start of summer kicks off next weekend. Pandemic restrictions were loosened by the state last week allowing restaurants and shops to operate at full capacity.
The rate of new positive COVID-19 cases in the state was .77% on Saturday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement on Sunday — the fourth day in a row that figure dipped under 1%. Of the 1,073 new cases reported on Saturday, 49 were in Nassau County and 67 in Suffolk County.
But officials are still trying to convince larger numbers of younger New Yorkers to get vaccinated to enjoy a safe and fun summer.
Statistics from the state Health Department show 43.2% of people between the ages of 16 and 25 and 50.8% of people between the ages of 26 and 34 have received at least one vaccine dose in New York, compared with 74.2% of people between the ages of 55 and 64.
"New Yorkers are ready for the new normal, and we've relaxed many restrictions that were put into place to protect the public health and adopted new CDC guidelines," Cuomo said in the statement. "Continuing to successfully get more New Yorkers vaccinated is going to make or break the state's COVID-19 response."
Enlisting social media influencers
Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies to team up with social media influencers to dispel myths that have discouraged young people from getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Only half of the nation's young adults — ages 18 to 29 — have been vaccinated, the Senate majority leader said during a news conference in Manhattan with social media influencers Huge Ma, who created the Turbo Vax Twitter bot; Dr. Mike Varshavski, who has millions of followers on YouTube; and Heather Irobunda, a Bronx physician who uses Instagram to educate tens of thousands of followers.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) said too many young people incorrectly believe that the vaccine will alter their DNA or create fertility problems. Many are taking a "wait and see" attitude to see how the vaccines affect others before they get the shot.
Schumer said it was important to enlist social media influencers to encourage young people to get vaccinated because social media is the most important source of information for teens and twentysomethings.
"Hopefully we can find new and creative ways to reach young people," Ma said.
On Friday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone teamed up with Northwell Health to host a pop-up vaccine center at Smith Point Beach vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been approved for children under the age of 12 and some experts are encouraging parents to continue to have kids wear masks in situations where they could possibly be exposed to the virus.
"With new infections at all time lows, I strongly believe parents and pediatricians must once again be firmly placed in a position to decide whether or not it is appropriate for their child or patient to wear a mask," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement. "Every child has a different set of circumstances."
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