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Long Island infections steady as vaccine eligibility poised to expand

New York State is poised to lower the

New York State is poised to lower the eligibility age for a COVID-19 vaccine to 16 starting Tuesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

New coronavirus infections on Long Island continued a long plateau over the Easter weekend, with New York on Sunday reporting nearly 1,400 new COVID-19 cases on the Island even as millions more New Yorkers become eligible for vaccines.

State data showed 4.4% of COVID-19 tests in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Saturday came back positive — a rate that has held steady for weeks despite an accelerating effort to vaccinate people against the virus.

Last week, New York State expanded COVID-19 eligibility to anyone 30 and older. On Tuesday, the eligibility threshold drops to age 16.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement Sunday. "As universal eligibility for the vaccine is set to go into effect this week in New York, our goal is to continue getting as many vaccines in arms as quickly and equitably as possible."

He encouraged New Yorkers to continue wearing masks and to practice social distancing.

State data shows the pandemic in New York has fallen from its latest high point over the winter holidays but failed to drop back down to its low levels from last summer.

The state on Sunday reported 59 additional deaths from the virus, including seven in Suffolk County. There were no deaths in Nassau County.

Close to 4,400 people were hospitalized with the virus statewide on Saturday, with nearly 900 in intensive care units, both slight declines from the day before.

Meanwhile, close to 12,000 Long Islanders received their first COVID-19 dose between Saturday and Sunday mornings, while nearly 5,700 completed their vaccine cycle, per state data.

That brings the region's total to 806,000 people with at least one dose and 451,000 who have received all necessary doses. They are among the 33% of New Yorkers who have received at least one shot and 20% who have been fully vaccinated. The state has administered more than 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to date.

On Tuesday, New York will become the latest state in the country to make all adults eligible for vaccines. President Joe Biden had asked all states to do so by May 1.

The millions of additional New Yorkers who will become eligible for vaccines on Tuesday are likely to widen the gap between high demand for vaccines and limited supply in the state.

On Sunday afternoon, the state appointment booking website did not show any available appointments at state-run vaccination centers on Long Island. By contrast, vaccine sites in upstate New York listed many availabilities.

Nearly 1,390,000 doses were delivered to providers in New York during the week ending Sunday, according to the governor's office.

Nationwide, more than 106 million people — or 32% of Americans — have received at least one dose, and more than 61 million — close to 19% of Americans — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

But while the virus' daily death toll has fallen amid the accelerating vaccination campaign, case levels remain relatively high in New York and across the country as more contagious COVID-19 variants continue to spread.

In a prerecorded Easter address, President Joe Biden urged Americans to vaccinate themselves against the virus.

"By getting vaccinated and encouraging your congregations and your communities to get vaccinated, we not only can beat this virus, we also can hasten the day where we can celebrate the holidays together again," he said.

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