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LI's COVID-19 daily positivity rate hits highest mark since late April

The state on Monday was closing the Jones

The state on Monday was closing the Jones Beach vaccination site, seen above in January. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Long Island's coronavirus positivity rate continues to creep back up amid a rise of the highly contagious delta variant strain, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday that COVID-19 "is now mainly a pandemic among the unvaccinated."

The daily COVID-19 positivity rate on Long Island on Sunday was 2.3%, more than double that of one week earlier, when the daily rate was 1.1% on July 11, and up 283% from July 1 when the daily rate was 0.6%, according to state Department of Health data.

It was the highest daily positivity level since the Island registered a rate of 2.6% in daily tests for April 25.

The steadily increasing positivity rate comes during a continuing slowdown in vaccination rates and with the closing of mass statewide vaccination locations, including Monday's shuttering of the Jones Beach site, once one of Long Island's busiest.

Nassau County reported 99 new cases Sunday, while Suffolk had 88, the figures show.

Statewide, the daily positivity rate Sunday was 1.18%, while the seven-day average was 1.26%. A total of 378 New Yorkers are hospitalized with COVID-19, and three residents, including one in Suffolk, died from the virus Sunday.

"After over a year of containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now being told that COVID is now mainly a pandemic among the unvaccinated," Cuomo said in a statement. "If you haven't already, I encourage you to get your shot to best protect yourself and your loved ones against the variants spreading through the nation."

Dr. Dave Chokshi, New York City's health commissioner, said the delta variant now comprises 69% of new COVID-19 cases in the five boroughs. The state Department of Health has not responded to requests for data on the number of new COVID-19 cases on Long Island linked to the delta variant.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health said it is aware of 8,718 "breakthrough" cases of COVID-19 that have emerged in fully vaccinated individuals — representing 0.15% of the fully vaccinated population statewide.

"We are continuing to investigate the number of fully vaccinated people who may have been hospitalized or passed away," Department of Health spokeswoman Erin Silk said.

The mass vaccination site at Jones Beach, once one of the most in-demand locations for shots in the state, was shutting down Monday amid dwindling use of the facility and a shifting focus of the vaccine campaign.

Cuomo has said the state is de-emphasizing large state-run vaccine sites — a similar facility at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood also recently was shuttered — in favor of a strategy that targets communities that have lower vaccination rates.

At its peak, Jones Beach was vaccinating nearly 2,300 per day in late February. In recent weeks, that figure dropped to less than 300 daily.

Statewide, vaccinations continue to slow down. Less than 23,000 doses were administered Sunday, one of the lowest amounts since the vaccines became widely available.

Just under 74% of New York adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That number falls to 61.7% when including the entire population, adding eligible children ages 12 to 17.

Nassau continues to lead the state in vaccinations among large counties, with 81% of adults and 67.4% of all residents receiving at least one dose, according to Health Department data.

"Nassau County continues to set the pace with our vaccination campaign," County Executive Laura Curran in a statement said. "With more contagious variants of the virus spreading, we must remain focused on getting shots into arms."

Suffolk County's vaccination numbers largely mirror statewide figures, with 73.7% of adults, and 61% of all residents, getting at least one dose.

Pediatricians: Universal masking in schools

The nation's largest pediatrician group recommended Monday that masks be mandatory in all classrooms — even for vaccinated students and teachers — when schools reopen in the fall.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' interim guidance said universal masking is necessary because students ages 11 and younger are not yet eligible for the vaccine, and widespread use of face coverings will reduce the burden on teachers and faculty to verify vaccination status.

"Universal use of face masks is recommended, given that certain teachers must cross over to multiple classes, such as specials teachers, special educators, and secondary school teachers, and in consideration of new SARS-CoV-2 variants," the guidance states. "At this time, this recommendation for use of face masks includes staff and educators who have been fully vaccinated, especially for teachers with students who are unvaccinated."

But the Academy discouraged a reliance on remote learning, adding that the "benefits of in-person school outweighs the risks in almost all circumstances."

No calls for renewed mask mandates locally

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said with the majority of the public vaccinated, a renewed mask mandate in the vein of Los Angeles County should not be forthcoming.

"The virus is not gone yet," he said Monday. "That’s what everybody should be cognizant of. The virus has not been completely eliminated and what we continue to do is encourage everyone to get vaccinated because the evidence grows more everyday that getting vaccinated is the key to protecting yourself and preventing illness or death."

Curran said her focus is squarely on vaccination.

"As more contagious COVID-19 variants like delta emerge, getting vaccinated is how we protect ourselves and our loved ones from getting sick or dying from COVID," she said.

In New York City, face coverings are still required in public schools, but Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected calls by some Democratic colleagues to return to a mask mandate in all indoor locations. He argued that his administration will instead prioritize vaccinations.

"Masks have value unquestionably," de Blasio said. "But masks are not going at the root of the problem. Vaccination is. So we don't intend for mask mandates. We do intend to double down on vaccination … This is where we make a difference."

If the state were to consider invoking another mask mandate, the governor first would have to again declare a state of emergency based on the spread of the virus, a Cuomo administration official said Monday.

With Keldy Ortiz and Yancey Roy

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