This story was reported by John Asbury, Robert Brodsky, Lisa L. Colangelo and Bart Jones. It was written by Jones.
The daily COVID-19 death toll jumped to 130 in New York State, including 16 in Suffolk County, as the state registered a near-record number of new daily cases.
With the omicron variant continuing to rip across Long Island and the state, Suffolk saw as many daily deaths on Wednesday as Queens, according to state data released on Thursday.
Suffolk also broke its record for daily new cases, with 6,977. Nassau had 6,983 new cases, and five county residents died.
The statewide total of 84,202 was about 1,200 shy of the record set on New Year’s Eve.
What to know
The daily COVID-19 death toll jumped to 130 in New York State, including 16 in Suffolk County and five in Nassau County.
Some medical experts said Thursday in a Newsday Live event that the omicron surge may be getting ready to slow down.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the county is working with Long Island’s two largest food banks to distribute masks and testing kits, while Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman announced the distribution this weekend of 80,000 free at-home rapid testing kits.
Despite the bracing numbers, some medical experts said Thursday in a Newsday Live event that the omicron surge may be getting ready to slow down.
"We are seeing very good evidence that we are cresting," Dr. Salvatore Pardo, chair of emergency medicine at LIJ-Valley Stream Hospital, said of the number of COVID-19 cases. "We are starting to see that it’s flattening and starting to anticipate the curve going down just as quickly as it went up. We are right in the middle."
Long Island has the highest positivity levels in the state, though after skyrocketing the last few weeks, the region has seen the rate of increase slow down the last few days. The level rose to 26.76% on Wednesday, from 26.36% the previous day.
Daily Positivity Rate
Nassau: 26.2% Suffolk: 27.3% Statewide: 22.30%
7-day Positivity Rate
Nassau: 26.1% Suffolk: 27.5% Statewide: 22.48%
Source: New York State Department of Health
Nassau and Suffolk officials on Thursday announced efforts to hand out at-home COVID-19 test kits and take other steps to try to get the coronavirus surge under control.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the county is working with Long Island’s two largest food banks to distribute masks and testing kits to homebound seniors, veterans and homeless outreach.
Bellone is working with Long Island Cares and Island Harvest to package personal protective equipment and testing kits to be distributed.
"We had hoped by this time, we would be in a position to say the pandemic is behind us. I believe we will get there this year, but right now numbers are surging," Bellone said. "I’ve never seen the numbers rising as quickly as they are right now."
Bellone said the county has surpassed hospitalizations from the peak of the second wave last year. Deaths have steadily climbed, he said, including 55 between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
"We need testing and we’ve had testing to keep schools open, but we haven’t been doing community testing for a long time," Bellone said. "This surge has caused us to shift back. The demand was enormous. We saw that right from the start."
Bellone said testing demand has started to level off at drive-thru testing sites, with about 5,000 tests available per day at sites and 40,000 tests distributed to school districts. He said he expects another 20,000 tests from the state that will go to schools.
The delivery of tests is important for seniors and veterans who cannot leave their homes or drive to a testing site, he said.
Each bag delivered will have a testing kit with two tests, KN95 masks and hand sanitizer.
Long Island Cares director Paule Pachter said it plans to distribute tests during the next two weeks from satellite locations to reach seniors three days a week and about 2,400 veterans a month. Also included will be the 800 homeless it provides food to during the week.
"We want to make sure these quick tests are available to anyone on Long Island who is struggling," he said. "It’s the least we can do for the vulnerable people in our communities to have access to these tests."
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman announced a "three-pronged approach" to fighting COVID-19, including distributing 80,000 free at-home rapid testing kits this weekend.
Residents can visit Eisenhower Park and Tobay Beach on Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until supplies run out, he said.
Each site will have 20,000 kits per day or 40,000 for the weekend. The kits, unlike those distributed by the county last weekend, will include two tests in each box.
Those residents living south of Hempstead Turnpike should use the Tobay Beach location, and those living north of the turnpike should use Eisenhower, he said.
"That way there will be less backups and the traffic will flow much, much better," Blakeman said, a nod to last weekend when traffic backed up for miles during a similar distribution at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale.
In addition, the county will open a vaccination pod at Nassau Community College this weekend from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., where health department officials will administer first and second shots and boosters by appointment.
Nassau, he said, also will make KN-95 masks available to every public and private school in the county upon the request of the district.
"Let no one be fooled that we in Nassau County are not taking seriously the challenges and risks of COVID-19," Blakeman said at a news conference in which he signed a controversial executive order allowing school districts to vote to opt out of the state’s mask mandate.
Gov. Kathy Hochul immediately said the order is illegal and the state may cut off funds to school districts that disobey the state mandate.
"We are taking a very aggressive approach in fighting COVID-19," Blakeman said. "But this aggressive approach must be balanced by keeping in mind the psychological and economic risks of every decision we make, as well as individuals constitutional rights."
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