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New York sees declining COVID-19 numbers, targets low vaccination areas

Local officials, parents and community members gathered in Massapequa

Local officials, parents and community members gathered in Massapequa on Tuesday to rally for the school district to allow students to attend class without wearing a mask. Credit: Howard Schnapp

This story was reported by Bart Jones, Keldy Ortiz, David Reich-Hale and John Valenti. It was written by Jones and Ortiz.

New York marked its 64th consecutive day of declining positivity levels in the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases, as the state pushed to increase vaccinations in underserved areas where inoculation totals are low.

Eleven new pop-up vaccination sites — including two on Long Island — will open this week in New York State in ZIP codes where the vaccination rate is lower than the state average, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday.

COVID-19 indicators continued at low levels in 71,953 test results from Monday.

The seven-day average for positive results in testing for the virus was 0.51% statewide. That was the 64th day in a row the key metric dropped, Cuomo said, placing New York among states with the lowest weekly level of positivity in the country, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

On Long Island, where the levels also have steadily declined for weeks and reached record lows, the weekly average was 0.45%. New York City registered 0.43% for the same period.

The number of new confirmed cases was 27 in Nassau County, 32 in Suffolk County, and 221 in New York City.

Across the state, 14 people died on Monday of causes related to the virus, including one in Suffolk.

Statewide, 66.4% of adults 18 and over have received at least one vaccine dose as of Tuesday morning, according to the state's vaccine tracker. Another measure cited by the state indicated the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 68.9% of New Yorkers 18 and older have gotten one dose of vaccine for COVID-19, though the state did not explain the discrepancy with its numbers.

Cuomo said on Monday that when the level reaches 70%, many restrictions on mask wearing, social distancing and venue capacity will be lifted, though some will remain in effect, such as the mandate to wear masks inside schools.

On Long Island, a pop-up vaccination site will be open at the Roosevelt Library on West Fulton Avenue on Thursday, while another one will be open Friday at Smith Point County Park on William Floyd Parkway in Shirley, Cuomo said. The sites will offer the shots for walk-ins on a first-come, first-served basis.

"Our progress on vaccinations has been instrumental in making it possible to reopen our economy and lift many of the restrictions, but the vaccination rate has slowed dramatically and we need to focus on the places that have low vaccination rates," Cuomo said.

"Pop-up sites have been critical in helping us reach more New Yorkers with the vaccine, and with these 11 new sites, we are redeploying our resources and working with local health departments across the state to target the areas that continue to lag on vaccinations."

Three sites will open in New York City: Thursday at the SAGE Crotona Senior Center in the Bronx, and Saturday at the Challenge Charter Middle School in Far Rockaway, Queens, and the Prospect Plaza Community Center in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport also will host a vaccine site, operated by Northwell Health, on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be given there.

Northwell: Fewer patients in acute care

Meanwhile, Northwell Health on Tuesday said the number of COVID-19 patients at its 19 acute care hospitals has fallen to 111, well below the second wave's peak of nearly 1,500 in February.

Northwell added that eight of its Long Island hospitals are at five or fewer cases, including Glen Cove Hospital, which discharged its last COVID-19 patient late last week, and Syosset Hospital, which was converted to a non-COVID-19 facility a year ago.

"We had close to 150 COVID patients last spring," said Dr. Brad Sherman, medical director at Glen Cove Hospital, who credited the lower numbers to a higher rate of vaccinations in the community and better understanding of how to treat the virus.

Northwell said Tuesday it was closing a 60-bed COVID-19 unit and converting the space into a post-anesthesia care unit.

At the pandemic's height in April 2020, Northwell had nearly 3,500 COVID-19 patients admitted at its hospitals.

Stony Brook seeking children for vaccine trial

Stony Brook Medicine said Tuesday it has joined a nationwide clinical trial combining phases 2 and 3 to test the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on children between six months and 12 years of age. The trial seeks 4,500 participants.

"With all the discussions about getting kids back to school, and over who should and shouldn’t wear a mask, imagine if we could just say ‘we vaccinated the children,’ " said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Medicine. "This is how we end the pandemic."

Combined trial phases may allow research questions to be answered more quickly or with fewer patients, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Nachman added that Stony Brook is seeking children "across all ethnicities, because we want the data to reflect all children."

Families who are interested can call the Stony Brook vaccine clinical trial hotline at 631-638-COVI or email CoV_prevention_network@stonybrook.edu and leave the following details: child’s name, date of birth and a parent’s name and cellphone number.

The Pfizer vaccine is approved for use in children and adults 12 years of age and older.

Counting on busy summer for NYC

As New York City moves closer to a full reopening, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that hotel occupancies hit 72% last weekend.

He also said 34,000 youth vaccine doses were distributed last week to those in the 12- to 17-year-old range — a 25% increase in doses over just one week prior.

To date, 156,000 12- to 17-year-olds in the city have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, de Blasio said.

Much of the inoculation success can be attributed to recent efforts, including block parties, vaccine sites in schools, and a program that helps kids get vaccinated at their local libraries.

"Mark my words, people are going to flock to New York City to be part of the summer of New York City," de Blasio said, adding: "The foundation of recovery is vaccination. It's amazing, the numbers keep going up."

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