The number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 delta variant in New York State has risen to 172, and nearly one-fourth of new coronavirus cases in New York City are linked to the highly infectious and potent viral spinoff.
The New York State Department of Health said that "as is the trend nationally," the delta "appears to be increasing in the percentage of variants identified in New York, but is still far behind other variants."
Health department officials did not break down the 172 cases by region or county, so statistics for Long Island were not immediately available. But close to one-fourth of all new COVID-19 cases in New York City are linked to the variant, the city's Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi, said Monday.
While the overall number of cases in the city remains low — less than 180 per day on a seven-day average, according to NYC statistics — roughly 23% are from the mutated coronavirus variant, Chokshi said.
"My primary concern with the variant is people who are unvaccinated," Chokshi said during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily news briefing. "And, in some ways, based on what we are seeing with the delta variant around the world and in New York City, now may be the most dangerous time to remain unvaccinated because of the threat this variant poses."
City health officials said the vaccine remains highly effective against the variant.
"The answer to the delta variant is more and more vaccinations," the mayor said. "We are certainly keeping a close eye on it."
Meanwhile, a new study suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines may be effective for years against COVID-19, though at least one infectious disease expert on Long Island cautioned it is too early to draw conclusions.
The study, published Monday by the scientific journal Nature, indicates people may not need booster shots. The study was conducted mainly by a team from Washington University in St. Louis.
It did not examine the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Some evidence has emerged from other studies indicating that most people immunized with the mRNA vaccines may be protected for years — as long as the virus and its variants do not change significantly from their current form.
The so-called delta variant is increasingly common, but it remains unclear whether the virus will mutate further.
Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, said Monday it is too soon to draw conclusions about the long-term effectiveness of the vaccines, and that the study involved too small a sample to make sweeping assertions.
"I certainly hope it’s true, and I wish it’s true, but to be honest, I think it’s premature to make that a huge headline based on the data that is available," Farber said, noting the study involved animals and a small number of humans.
"It definitely seems premature to me to make any conclusion based on long-term immunity," he said. "After what this virus has done, you’re not going to take a small group of animals and find memory cells and say that the ballgame is over."
Dr. Sharon Nachman, associate dean for research at Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine, agreed the study is not the definitive answer on the longevity of the vaccines, but said it is still encouraging news.
"It’s very exciting information," she said. "It’s absolutely preliminary. But that snapshot of information is a jump start to how to ask the next set of questions. It would have been far worse if this preliminary study found nothing, no long-term response, no booster, no nothing, because that would have told us we’re back to square one."
Overall, COVID-19 indicators continued to remain low throughout the state and on Long Island in the latest test results, though Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo warned that more people still need to get vaccinated.
The seven-day average for positive results in testing for the virus was 0.39% statewide, 0.37% on Long Island and 0.40% in New York City.
The number of new confirmed cases in test results Sunday was 22 in Nassau County, 30 in Suffolk County and 156 in New York City.
Across the state, three people died on Sunday of causes related to the virus. None were on Long Island.
"Our state has come a long way in beating back this virus, but our work continues because we need to get every New Yorker vaccinated," Cuomo said in a statement.
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