Long Island reported more than 900 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, the same day U.S. health officials announced plans to dispense booster shots to all Americans to enhance their protection from the surging delta variant amid evidence the vaccines' effectiveness was falling.
The federal booster plan, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other top authorities, calls for an extra dose eight months after people get their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The doses could begin the week of Sept. 20.
Health officials said they were waiting for more data to determine if people who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine would need an extra shot.
The overall plan is subject to a Food and Drug Administration evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose, the officials said.
They said it was "very clear" that the vaccines’ protection against infection waned over time.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top expert on COVID-19, said one of the key lessons of the virus was that it was better to "stay ahead of it than chasing after it."
"These booster shots are free," President Joe Biden said Wednesday afternoon. The shots will be available at "approximately 80,000 vaccination locations nationwide. … Just show your vaccination card, and you’ll get a booster."
LI pharmacies ready
Some Long Island pharmacists said they are well-positioned to meet any demand for booster shots.
Nidhin Mohan of New Island Pharmacy in Deer Park said he already had received calls asking about booster shots after federal officials announced last week that immunocompromised people should get one. He added that many of the people who called were not in that category.
Still, if the guidelines expand, he said he can meet the demand. He has hired one extra pharmacist and two technicians to work on Thursdays, which is the day he devotes to giving COVID-19 shots, he said.
Ordering doses of vaccines is "much more prompt, and I have been getting it very regularly," he said. "I would not think it is going to be difficult."
Tom D’Angelo, who runs home infusion pharmacy Americare in Garden City and Franklin Square Pharmacy in Franklin Square, said, "The public will definitely be able to get their booster shots. It’s not going to be like it was when it first came out and you had that mad rush."
20 COVID-19 deaths statewide
On Tuesday, Long Island registered 913 new daily cases of COVID-19, while the positivity level in testing approached 4%, according to state figures released Wednesday.
The number of daily deaths statewide from the virus is back into double digits, with 20 people dying Tuesday of causes linked to the coronavirus, including four in Suffolk County and one in Nassau County.
The testing also confirmed that the delta variant has taken control of the pandemic — 95% of confirmed cases in the state are from delta, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.
Nassau County registered 385 new cases in test results from Tuesday, while Suffolk County had 528. Before this latest surge, the total was regularly well below 100.
New York City logged 2,079 new cases in results from Tuesday, state figures show.
The positivity level in testing on Long Island hit 3.94%, after a steady rise since late June, when it dropped to 0.35% on June 29.
The number of people hospitalized in New York State rose by 75, to 1,888.
More getting shots in NYC
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said recent government-imposed vaccine mandates appear to be nudging more people to get the shots. City workers must be inoculated or tested weekly, or be suspended. People at many indoor venues must be vaccinated to gain entry.
"People have been reporting at sites where previously it was sort of people were coming up in, you know, waves, but not nonstop," de Blasio said. "We're seeing lines again, and this is great. We — this is one occasion, New Yorkers don't love lines, but this is one case where I'm really happy to see lines, lines of people waiting to be vaccinated,"
Dr. Ted Long, head of the city’s Test & Trace Corps, said: "We’re definitely seeing people coming out in droves, whether it's our mobile units at restaurants, whether it's our at home vax program, or other locations now."
Cuomo said more people need to get vaccinated to stop the growing spread of the virus.
"New Yorkers worked tirelessly to prevent the spread of the COVID virus in their communities and we cannot afford to take any steps backward," he said.
"The vaccine has repeatedly been proven effective against the virus, and with the ongoing spread of the delta variant, it is crucial that you get vaccinated if you haven't already. It's free, it's available and it's effective."
Some experts said Wednesday that the coronavirus delta variant was far more contagious than prior versions and more readily spread — especially among children who can't be vaccinated against it.
The experts spoke on the NewsdayLive webinar "Delta's Rising: How Could it Affect Our Kids?"
Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children's Hospital, and Dr. Chid Iloabachie, associate chair, emergency medicine, at Long Island Jewish in Valley Stream, said, because children under age 12 were not eligible to be vaccinated, infection rates among kids had risen to levels not seen with the earlier variants of COVID-19.
The good news, the experts said, is that lessons learned so far can help limit exposure to the virus: masking, social distancing, hand-washing and good hygiene.
The better news is that a vaccine for children may be ready by this winter — in time for the coming flu season, they said.
The experts stressed that side effects from vaccinations had been minimal. In trials to date, side effects experienced by participating children, age 5-12, have been similar to those experienced by adults — mostly soreness near the injection site and, on occasion, mild fever, chills and body aches.
With John Valenti and AP
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