Message from Brian L. Harper M.D., M.P.H.
Dear New York Tech Students, Faculty, and Staff:

As of January 6, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 20,732,404 cases of COVID-19 and 352,464 deaths in the United States since the start of the pandemic.

As we begin the new year, COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are generally increasing nationwide, creating havoc for health care systems. During the holiday season, over 1 million cases were recorded in the United States in one week, again disproportionately affecting African American and Latinx communities. More than 3,800 people in the U.S. died of COVID-19 on January 6, a record daily death toll, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. All of this data confirms that we remain in the midst of a worsening pandemic.

To create an even more concerning situation, there has been a new variant of SARS COV-2, named B117, that appears to be more transmissible (by up to 70%) than previous forms.

One of the known characteristics of viruses is the ability to mutate. Currently, the most dominant form of the SARS COV-2 virus is D614G. The B117 variant is estimated to have first emerged in the United Kingdom in September 2020. In the U.S., as of January 6, B117 has been found in Colorado, California, Florida, and, most recently, New York. The infected individual from Saratoga County, N.Y., had no known travel history, similar to B117-infected individuals in other states. Therefore, there is a genuine concern this new virus is circulating in U.S. communities.

Two major public health issues with any new variant is whether it can evade detection by current diagnostic tests and whether it can evade natural or vaccine-induced immunity. Fortunately, B117 gives us no reason for concern in either instance. Nonetheless, increased transmissibility is still a major public health concern. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson re-imposed a lockdown on Monday as this new variant caused a surge in infections and hospitalizations in England. In response to this new strain, the CDC plans to increase its genetic sequencing surveillance nationwide.

All of this underscores the importance of adhering to community mitigation efforts. Despite the fact that a vaccine has been approved for emergency use, there are still logistical difficulties with distributing and administering it in large numbers. Therefore, our current strategy remains testing, with accompanying isolation and quarantine as necessary.

In regard to testing, it is important to note that if an individual has contracted COVID-19 and is appropriately isolated, there is no need to be re-tested. In fact, there is a possibility that a repeat test will be positive even though the individual is unlikely to transmit the virus and is not considered to be contagious.

Until there is more clarity and understanding of this issue, we should all continue to engage in mitigation activities such as wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and remaining at home if ill or symptomatic.

As always, the New York Tech community is welcome to make an appointment for a COVID test at the Academic Health Care Center in Long Island by calling 516.686.1300. Those who may feel anxious or uneasy may reach out to Counseling and Wellness Services at our campuses in Long Island (516.686.7683) or New York City (212.261.1773) to talk or make a virtual appointment.


Brian L. Harper M.D., M.P.H.
Chief Medical Officer, NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine
Vice President, Equity & Inclusion


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