A potential COVID-19 perfect storm may be hitting Long Island: new cases of the virus and positivity rates are soaring, a new variant has arrived, the holiday season surge has started, winter is coming, and many people still refuse to get vaccinated.
To top it off, medical experts expect the traditional flu season to be worse this year than last.
Infectious disease specialists say that they expect the current trend to get worse before it gets better, but they are hoping Long Island doesn’t repeat the worst days of the pandemic.
“I don’t know if I would say storm, but there are a lot of factors that taken all together would suggest we’re going to see things get worse before they stabilize and get better,” said Dr. David Hirschwerk, an infectious-disease expert at New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health.
Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, agreed that the numbers would probably get worse in the near term, but she is optimistic Long Island will weather the surge especially as more people get vaccinated.
“It’s hard to say it’s going to be a perfect storm, because I think that even with a lot of people not being vaccinated, we still are making progress with vaccinating adults, getting boosters, and more importantly, the ability to vaccinate children is definitely going to help us,” she said.
Long Island’s COVID-19 indicators have taken off in the past few weeks, and especially this week in a post-Thanksgiving surge.
The number of new daily cases jumped to nearly 2,000 on Wednesday. That included 1,079 in Suffolk County and 890 in Nassau County, for a total of 1,969.
That came close to the total for New York City, which logged 2,364 new cases, though the five boroughs have nearly triple the population of Long Island.
The figures on Long Island were about half the all-time pandemic highs for each county. In contrast, on May 22, the number in Nassau was 15, while it was 13 in Suffolk on June 1.
The numbers were high again on Thursday, again hitting almost 2,000. Suffolk had 1,102 cases, and Nassau had 856, for a total of 1,958. New York City had 2,389.
On top of that, the first case of the omicron variant was reported in Suffolk County on Thursday, along with four cases in New York City. Medical experts expect many more to come.
Long Island’s positivity level for testing for the virus also has leapt, nearly tripling from a low of 2.08% as recently as Oct. 28 to 5.83% on Thursday. On Tuesday, it was at 5.17%.
The positivity level is the percentage of people who test positive for the virus — meaning they are infected — out of the total that get tested that day.
Statewide, 49 people died on Thursday of causes linked to the virus, including one death on Long Island.
Dr. Alan M. Bulbin, director of infectious disease at Catholic Health St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center in Flower Hill, said the rise in the indicators on Long Island is “concerning and it’s clearly what’s been predicted — there would be a winter surge.”