Despite state's vaccination effort, Long Island COVID-19 cases reach recent highs
COVID-19 positivity levels from daily testing continue to plateau, and case numbers remain at a high level despite the ongoing vaccination campaign, with Nassau and Suffolk counties reporting hundreds of new positives each, the latest state data released Thursday showed.
Suffolk County registered more than 900 new cases on Wednesday — a daily count not seen since early February. Nassau had more than 800 new positives, the highest daily count since Feb. 12. Both counties reported relatively high numbers of test results, which could have contributed to the spikes.
The total new confirmed cases in Suffolk was 925, while Nassau had 810 new positives, the daily state figures show.
Last summer, the level of new daily cases in each county fell as low as 100 cases a day.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Thursday the infection levels point to the need to continue observing measures to prevent spread.
"While we don’t put too much stock into any one day’s numbers, it is critical that Long Islanders continue to wear masks and practicing social distancing as our vaccination efforts move full speed ahead," Bellone said.
In Nassau, County Executive Laura Curran said the virus remains a threat.
"COVID-19 is still a risk, and that's why Nassau County is focused on getting as many residents vaccinated as quickly as possible," Curran said in a statement.
She stressed the vaccination push, with 42% of its residents having received at least one dose as of Thursday, "compared to 35% in New York State and 33% nationwide."
"As we continue to battle the virus, we must also continue reopening our economy and society in a common-sense manner," Curran said.
In Suffolk, which on Wednesday announced stepped-up efforts to get the vaccine to hard-to-reach population groups, 35% of residents have received at least one vaccine dose.
Statewide, positivity levels also tracked at levels above the summer lows. The daily level from 263,737 test results on Wednesday was 3.18%. The seven-day positivity average was 3.4% statewide, 4.28% on Long Island, and 3.92% in New York City.
Those positivity levels had hovered around 1% during the summer.
The virus still presents a challenge to the state, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement Thursday.
"New Yorkers have done a tremendous job at continuing to beat back COVID, but we are not out of the woods yet," Cuomo said. "Even as we keep expanding eligibility, opening new vaccination sites and working to ensure the system is equitable, there's still more work to be done before New Yorkers reach the desired level of immunity."
Across the state, 47 people died of coronavirus-related causes on Wednesday, including four in Nassau and one in Suffolk.
Cuomo said that "new variants and continuing infections are still causes for concern, and New Yorkers should stay vigilant" by washing their hands often, maintaining social distance and wearing face coverings.
Across the state, more than 11 million doses of vaccine have been administered since December. That included 223,154 in the last 24 hours and 1.4 million in the last week, according to the state.
GETTING COVID-19 VACCINES IN NY
- To complete a prescreening and find sites to schedule COVID-19 shots, people in the eligible lists can visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/
- State residents may call the New York State Vaccination Hotline: 1-833-NYS-4VAX (1-833-697-4829)
- Northwell Health is booking its COVID-19 vaccine appointments online at northwell.edu/covidvaccine
- Call or visit your local pharmacist to check for participation in the state's vaccination effort.
- The state's phase distribution guidelines can be found at: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/phased-distribution-vaccine
Who qualifies for COVID-19 shots?
The State of New York has expended its eligibility list for vaccines against COVID-19 several times, expanding the groups of people included in the phases. This is a summary of the eligible groups. The following are the qualifying categories, as revised on March 29.
Group in Phase 1A
The state said about 2.1 million state residents belong in this group, including:
- Health care workers at hospitals who interact with patients.
- Residents and staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
- Dentists, psychologists and others deemed health care workers with direct contact with patients.
- Employees of Federally Qualified Health Centers.
- EMT volunteers and staff.
- Coroners, medical examiners, some funeral workers.
- Staff and residents of state facilities for people with developmental disabilities, mental health care and addiction services.
- Employees at urgent care centers.
- Individuals administering COVID-19 vaccines, including local health department staff.
- Staff at ambulatory centers.
- Home care and hospice workers.
- Residents and staff at other congregate care facilities.
Group in Phase 1B
The state estimated about 3.2 million residents belong in this group, including:
- People 75 years of age and older.
- Teachers and education workers, including in-person college instructors, substitute teachers, student teachers, school administrators, paraprofessional staff, support staff, contractors in schools and bus drivers.
- First responders, including police; firefighters; state police; sheriff’s offices; county, town and village police departments, and other law enforcement offices.
- Public safety workers, including dispatchers and technicians.
- Public transit workers, including airport, railroad, subway, bus, ferry and Port Authority employees.
- Corrections officers.
- Other sworn and civilian personnel, such as court and peace officers.
- Grocery store workers dealing with the public.
- Individuals living in homeless shelters.
Following federal recommendations:
- Since Feb. 15, people at risk of moderate to severe illness due to health conditions, immunocompromised status or comorbidities, including ailments such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and chronic kidney disease. The full list of qualifying conditions is listed with the announcement on the state's website.
Added at the discretion of local governments:
- Taxi drivers.
- Restaurant workers.
- Residents of facilities for developmentally disabled people.
- Hotel workers who interact with the public.
Other expansions of eligibility:
- State residents age 60 and older (Since March 10, 2021).
- “Public-facing” government and public employees (Since March 17, 2021).
- Workers for not-for-profit organizations who provide “public-facing” services (Since March 17, 2021).
- Building service workers who are “public-facing” employees (Since March 17, 2021).
- State residents age 50 and older (Since March 23, 2021).
Since March 30, 2021:
- State residents age 30 and older.
Since April 6, 2021:
- State residents age 16 and older.
SOURCE: New York State, Northwell Health.
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