Nassau and Suffolk have high levels of COVID-19 spread, CDC says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised the risk of COVID-19 transmission at the “community level” in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Thursday, with public health officials now urging Long Islanders to wear face masks. indoors in all public places.

The change, which puts Long Island in the highest-risk designation, comes amid a steady rise in coronavirus cases over the past few months — a spike health officials say was fueled by both the spread of omicron subvariants and by the end of mask mandates in schools and other crowded indoor buildings.

The CDC’s recommendation is not binding, and masks are now only required in a handful of places across the state, including hospitals, nursing homes, state-run public transportation centers and local airports.

The CDC determines the weekly community-level update for a county based on three metrics: new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people over seven days; the percentage of inpatient hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients over a seven-day average; and the total number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period.

Recommendations for those living in counties with high levels of COVID-19 transmission include indoor masking in all public places for all people, regardless of vaccination status.

People who are at higher risk of a severe case of COVID-19 should take extra precautions, including considering avoiding optional indoor activities and developing a plan for rapid testing, the CDC says.

On Wednesday, 1,150 Nassau residents tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the county’s seven-day average to 11.1%, according to data from the state Department of Health. Suffolk’s figures are only slightly behind, with a seven-day positivity rate of 9.8% and 980 new cases on Wednesday, the data showed. The seven-day positivity rate for Long Island as a whole is 10.5%.

By comparison, COVID-19 rates on Long Island a year ago hovered around 1% before climbing to nearly 27% in January amid the rapid spread of the original omicron variant, according to figures from the state.

Dr. Steven Carsons, director of the Vaccine Center at NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island, said the island’s true positivity rate is even higher because many people who test positive on home kits do not report this information. to their physicians or state health officials.

“We should always protect ourselves by using masking when appropriate with vaccination,” Carsons said. “If people are really unwell, they should get tested. A lot of people assume it’s the flu or a cold. So they can infect others. And even though they can do relatively well for multiple reasons such as age, access to medication and previous vaccination, they can pass it on to someone who is very vulnerable.”

All five of New York’s boroughs remain in the middle or low categories. But much of the rest of the state is also designated as having a high rate of COVID-19 spread, among 137 total counties nationwide.

While cases have risen again on Long Island, hospitalization rates and virus-related deaths have remained low, in part due to the region’s high vaccination rates and large number of people who have natural immunity. temporary after contracting the virus months earlier, health officials mentioned.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican who campaigned against mask mandates, said in a statement that “the county is not in crisis.”

“Nassau is back to normal, and we will continue to focus our efforts on helping residents recover from the social and financial burdens imposed by the pandemic,” he added.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, said in a statement that “COVID-19 is still here and we encourage all residents to take the necessary precautions.”

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