The latest numbers from New York State show Long Island...

The latest numbers from New York State show Long Island COVID-19 cases surging by 85% over the past two weeks. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

COVID-19 indicators are surging on Long Island, with an 85% spike in average daily new cases over the past two weeks and the seven-day positivity rate hitting nearly 10%.

The Island averaged 1,555 new cases a day over the seven days ending Monday, and 838 cases a day over the seven days ending April 25.

Some medical experts are tracing the jump largely to the decision by New York State to drop a mandate requiring masks in schools that started March 2 and a Florida federal judge's decision in late April that ended mandatory face coverings on airplanes and other forms of public transportation.

“How many times do we need to be taught the same lesson: Every time you take the masks off the numbers go up,” said Dr. David Battinelli, physician-in-chief at Northwell Health.

What to know

  • Long Island has seen an 85% spike in average daily COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks.
  • The seven-day positivity average has hit nearly 10% — about 1,500 cases a day.
  • Some Long Island medical experts trace the jump to dropping mask mandates in schools and ending mandatory face coverings on airplanes and other forms of public transportation.

“It’s what we’ve been talking about forever: When you do lift all the behaviors, whether it be social distancing, masking, less of a push on the need for vaccines and boosters, you’re going to see cases go up,” he said.

Both Nassau and Suffolk counties are now considered to have medium levels of spread by the CDC, up from low.

The seven-day positivity average on Long Island hit 9.96% in test results from Monday. That is the highest level since Jan. 26 when the region was coming out of the initial record-breaking omicron surge.

The latest wave is being fueled by the BA. 2 12.1 subvariant of the omicron variant.

Medical experts said that is a vast undercount because many people are doing home tests whose results are not reported to the state.

“What we are seeing because of these choices is just this huge wave” of cases “at a time when the wave should be controlled,” said Sean Clouston, an associate professor of public health at Stony Brook University.

“Just a ton of cases in the schools, and it’s totally 100% preventable, because we’ve prevented it already,” he said. “It’s quite frustrating.”

With COVID-19 cases going up across the Island, so are the number of people hospitalized with the disease. Suffolk’s hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients doubled in less than two weeks, from 78 to 161 patients between April 27 and May 8.

Nassau went from 133 patients to 154. Northwell’s number nearly doubled, from 135 to 263 between March 31 and May 10.

The state stopped counting negative antigen results April 4, so it no longer uses any rapid tests to calculate its positivity rates, because counting only positive but not negative results would lead to an inflated percentage of positive tests, health department officials have said.

Battinelli said he was especially concerned about the mask mandate being dropped on public transportation after the Florida federal judge's decision, which he added, is a big factor in the jump in numbers.

“The airport thing to me is very concerning because you’re mixing literally millions and millions of people from all over the place,” he said.

That mandate never should have been lifted, Battinelli said, and he would like to see it reimposed.

Doing so in schools would be harder, according to Battinelli, because there would be a lot of resistance, but he thinks it should be an option, and students and staff should be encouraged to mask up again.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice Department filed an appeal seeking to overturn the judge’s order at the request of the CDC.

Clouston said he believes the mask mandate for schools should be reimposed.

“Wearing a mask at school is pretty easy," he said. "It would save hundreds of people from having to go to the hospital.”

Many of the people who are hospitalized and have COVID-19 are not severely ill because they came into the hospital for other reasons initially, Battinelli noted.

But in New York State, 21 people including five in Suffolk and three in Nassau died on Monday of causes linked to the virus, according to the state.

Still, Battinelli noted that the number of people hospitalized or dying is not increasing nearly as rapidly as the number of new cases.

The groups most impacted by the growing number of cases are the vulnerable: people who are not vaccinated, the elderly, or those with underlying health conditions, experts said.

“It means that wherever they go they are at much higher risk,” Clouston said.

Battinelli said he doesn’t expect the case numbers to drop soon, that is, unless masking is brought back.

“You’re going to see this for quite a long period of time,” he said.

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