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Analysis: COVID-19 cases have dropped on Long Island towns over recent months

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of medicine and chief

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital, spoke about the effectiveness of vaccines and the road to herd immunity.  Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The number of COVID-19 cases plummeted in every town and city on Long Island over the past five months, with some not reporting a single case on some days, a Newsday analysis found.

In Huntington, there were 1,434 people who tested positive for the coronavirus during the week ending Jan. 11. For the week ending Wednesday, there were 18. In Glen Cove, there were 245 cases during that January week. In the week ending Wednesday, there was one.

"This is a testament to vaccination," said Dr. Bruce Polsky, an infectious disease specialist who is chairman of medicine at NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island in Mineola. "Vaccination works."

Buoyed by the falling case numbers, Long Island towns and cities are reopening senior centers, resuming in-person meetings and planning big Fourth of July celebrations. Concert venues and sports arenas are offering full-capacity seating for vaccinated patrons.

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There are 45 times fewer COVID-19 cases on Long Island compared with five months ago, a Newsday analysis found. The sharp declines occurred in every town and city.

There were 503 cases the week ending Wednesday, compared with 22,749 the week ending Jan. 11.

Infectious disease experts say vaccinations are the primary reason for the decline, although warmer weather is a factor as well.

Islandwide, there were 45 times fewer weekly cases in the week ending Wednesday, with 503 positives, than in the week ending Jan. 11, when there were 22,749, according to Newsday’s analysis of data on all 15 towns and cities provided by Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Weekly case totals now range from five or fewer cases per 100,000 people in Glen Cove, East Hampton, Shelter Island and Southold, to 25 cases per 100,000 in Babylon.

Polsky said although the rising vaccination rate is the main reason numbers have tumbled so low, the warmer weather — when people spend more time outdoors, where transmission of the virus is less likely — is a factor.

Although Polsky expected a drop in the case numbers, the extent of the fall "is beyond my expectations," he said.

In Nassau, 63.6% of the population — and more than 77% of adults — have received at least one vaccine dose. In Suffolk, more than 57% of all residents, and 69.6% of adults, have gotten at least one dose.

Polsky said that is enough to significantly inhibit the virus’ spread.

"This virus depends on very robust person-to-person transmission," he said. "The more dead ends this virus hits, it will peter out."

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside, said people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies to the virus are contributing to the drop in cases.

Glatt said the hope is that the numbers "will continue to go lower and lower and lower until we have only sporadic cases and don’t have outbreaks."

With the case numbers so low, the risk even for unvaccinated people is much lower than a few months ago, he said.

But the unvaccinated are not free from risk, he said. If you’re unvaccinated and are thinking about going to a crowded indoor restaurant or party, "You should be somewhat concerned," he warned.

"If you’re the only unvaccinated person in the group, then you’re probably not going to get sick," he said. "If there are many unvaccinated people and there’s a little bit of disease around, there’s always a chance you’re going to have a resurgence" of the virus among those people.

Polsky likened it to "a game of Russian roulette. You may get out unscathed, but you may not."

On the other hand, Glatt said, "it’s reasonable" for someone who is fully vaccinated to, for example, attend an Islanders game packed together with other vaccinated people inside Nassau Coliseum, which allows full capacity in sections reserved for those with proof of vaccination.

"The vaccinated person can hopefully go about life like it was before the pandemic because the incidence is low, and even if they were to get exposed, chances are that they’ll be OK," he said.

Vaccinated people at high risk for severe COVID-19 because of a medical condition or their age should be more cautious, because of the small chance of getting sick, he said.

With cases falling and vaccinations rising, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced June 7 that most remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted when 70% of New Yorkers have received a first vaccine dose. So far, 69.9% have done so, according to the count by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said he hopes that includes allowing beaches and pools to have no capacity restrictions.

"If they were to tell us tomorrow we can open up to full capacity, we are ready, and I can tell you right now, the residents are ready," Clavin said.

Glen Cove canceled last year’s July 4 fireworks, concert and parade, but this year, "We’re very happy to say we’re bringing them back," Mayor Tim Tenke said.

Glen Cove reopened City Hall to the public on June 1 and, starting June 23, City Council meetings again will be in person, with no restrictions for vaccinated people and a request that unvaccinated people wear masks and practice social distancing.

Southampton Town last month reopened its senior centers, which Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said is helping combat the "isolation" that many seniors felt holed up inside their homes.

Southampton beaches are open to nonresidents again, and "all indications are it’s going to be a banner year for tourism out here."

"There’s definitely a pent-up demand," Schneiderman said. "People have made it through — for the most part — this pandemic. They want to be outdoors. They want to be with people. They want to enjoy life."