State health officials on Friday reported a 40% drop in...

State health officials on Friday reported a 40% drop in new COVID-19 cases statewide over the past week. Local health officials don't expect a spike in student cases after the winter school break. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Long Island public health experts said they see far less chance of a spike in COVID-19 due to the school winter recess than prior school breaks.

Even though many families will travel and be with those they don’t see a lot, the break next week comes as cases and deaths drop and more people are protected, experts said.

State health officials on Friday reported a 40% drop in new cases statewide over the past week, as well as a 30% drop in hospital admissions.

Long Island continued to see lower rates of illness. The seven-day average for the percentage in positive tests fell from 3.06% on Tuesday to 2.81% Wednesday and 2.66% Thursday, officials said.

"I’m not terribly worried. I don’t think we’ll get an uptick," said Dr. Bruce Farber, Northwell Health’s chief of public health and epidemiology. "Community [infection] rates have fallen to numbers we haven’t seen in a long time. A large part of the community has some level of immunity."

Farber added that no one knows what the future will hold with the virus, and that another variant may come along and change the situation.

"But make hay while there’s sunshine," Farber said. "We’re in a very good sweet spot now."

DAILY POSITIVITY RATE

Nassau: 2.4%

Suffolk: 2.1%

Statewide: 2.37%

7-DAY POSITIVITY RATE

Nassau: 3.2%

Suffolk: 3.0%

Statewide: 2.78%   

Source: New York State Department of Health

Still, Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said she believes there’s a chance of a "mini-surge," as Islanders get out of their routine.

"There is still a large unvaccinated population that has not had COVID," she said. "It’s our job to always worry."

Nachman said she does not expect anything close to the surge in illness seen in December and January following the holidays. During the omicron surge, which struck children harder than earlier forms of the virus, so many children and school staff were sick that several Island schools turned to remote learning in early January.

People should keep their guard up, to a degree, she said.

DAILY POSITIVITY RATE

Nassau: 2.4%

Suffolk: 2.1%

Statewide: 2.37%

7-DAY POSITIVITY RATE

Nassau: 3.2%

Suffolk: 3.0%

Statewide: 2.78%   

Source: New York State Department of Health

Families planning travel and get-togethers should consider several factors, she said. What is the vaccination status of the people they will be among, and have any recently had the virus? If concerns arise, she pointed to time-tested precautions.

"Masks work. They always work," Nachman said. "Washing hands is always a good idea in the infectious disease world. If someone is not feeling well, it’s not a good time to get together."

Dr. Leonard Krilov, an infectious disease specialist and chief of pediatrics at NYU Langone Hospital–Long Island in Mineola, said if people are in a large crowd, social distancing and mask-wearing is a good idea.

But if a person is among a small gathering of vaccinated people who feel well, masks may well not be necessary, Krilov said.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau, said there are no blanket rules about virus protections. He recommends "intelligent masking."

"If you’re in a bar with a lot of people, and there’s poor ventilation, and there’s a lot of young people who are unvaccinated," masking may be appropriate, he said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul dropped New York’s indoor mask mandate on Feb. 9, which had required businesses to ask customers for proof of full vaccination or require masks at all times.

Hochul has said she hopes to decide on the future of the school mask mandate by the first week of March. She has said she envisions students getting tested right as the winter break ends on Feb. 28, and then again three days later. That would give her a sense of how much infection spread during the break, and how soon she might lift the mandate.

Nassau County had 213 new cases of the virus on Thursday, and Suffolk had 227, state figures said.

The state had 42 deaths, eight of them in Suffolk, the figures said.

Sign up to get text alerts about COVID-19 and other topics at newsday.com/text.

Latest videos

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME