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Zero mortality for fully vaccinated Long Islanders, health experts say

Even with the lifting of most COVID restrictions, many LIers remain cautious. Are we safe from the spread of variants? Should the masks finally come off? The commissioners answer these questions and more.

No fully vaccinated Long Islander has died of COVID-19, according to the Nassau and Suffolk county governments, similar to statistics across the United States since after vaccinations became available in mid-December.

And the number of symptomatic "breakthrough cases" — the epidemiological term for an infection despite vaccination — "is very, very low" in Nassau, said county health commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein and "practically none" in Suffolk, said his counterpart to the east, Dr. Gregson Pigott.

By comparison, as of June 14, there were as many as 3,729 known such cases of the disease nationwide, with as many as 671 known deaths, of COVID-19-vaccinated people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics.

The number of breakthrough cases in Nassau wasn't available, said Jordan Carmon, a spokesman for County Executive Laura Curran. Derek Poppe, a spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, didn't provide the number.

In New York State, once the nation's epicenter of the pandemic, there were 42,942 people who died of COVID-19, with 3,178 Nassau residents, and 3,401 Suffolk residents, as of Tuesday, according to New York State’s COVID-19 tracker online. There have been 183,825 positive tests in Nassau; and 201,261 in Suffolk, according to the tracker.

Eisenstein and Pigott spoke Wednesday at a Newsday LIVE webinar discussion called "Long Island, Unmasked."

"The number of people who have symptomatic, breakthrough cases is very, very low. I’m not aware of any deaths in Nassau County as a result of it," Eisenstein said.

It's unclear how long lasting vaccine protection will ultimately prove, and whether boosters might be needed, he said, but he's hopeful it's long-lasting: "These vaccines are miraculous … There is an incredible feeling of liberation that you know, even if you go to a crowded event — an Islanders game, a family party, whatever it is — that if you’re fully vaccinated, you’re not gonna get sick or die of COVID."

It’s similar in Suffolk, Pigott said. Occasionally, a person will be undergoing a COVID-19 test, say, because it’s mandated as a medical worker or before outpatient surgery, and one of those rare infections, despite vaccination, will be detected, he said.

Such a person must isolate for 10 days to avoid infecting others but don’t show symptoms, get sick, get hospitalized or die.

"It’s like, ‘Oh, you tested positive.’ It’s like, 'well, I’m fully vaccinated. I didn’t even know I had COVID; I had no symptoms. You’re finding some asymptomatic test-positives," he said. "Generally they sit out their isolation period, their 10 days, but they are not at all symptomatic."