New York Institute of Technology
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Thank you for your cooperation with our on-campus surveillance testing initiative. I am pleased to report that we found no positive test results. This places us below the New York State and Nassau County positivity rates.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the world, discussions of an appropriate strategy to combat this disease also continue. Terms such as “mitigating the virus” and “herd immunity” are often used, and this communication will define and discuss some of these principles.

Community mitigation efforts aim to reduce 1) the rate at which someone who is infected comes into contact with someone who is not infected or 2) the probability of infection if there is contact. The more a person interacts with different people, and the longer and closer the interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community mitigation activities are actions that people and communities can take to slow the spread of a new virus with pandemic potential. These include basic principles such as handwashing, wearing masks, and physical distancing. Similar to the state’s right to police powers, public health law allows the government to modify an individual’s rights in an attempt to protect the health of others. This is most notably manifested in the government’s right to isolate and quarantine. It is unfortunate that these basic public health strategies have become such volatile issues. The CDC clarifies legal authority and clearly articulates the concept of community mitigation.

Herd immunity or herd protection occurs when a virus cannot spread because it keeps encountering people who are protected against infection. Once a sufficient proportion of the population is no longer susceptible, the virus can no longer spread. A visualization can be found in this video.

There are essentially two ways for any population to achieve herd immunity. One is via a vaccine program in which you attempt to create herd protection by vaccinating a large portion of the population. The classic public health example of this strategy was the use of the smallpox vaccine, in which vaccine programs were initiated throughout the world. This strategy essentially eliminated the smallpox virus worldwide—so much so that the smallpox vaccine is no longer mandated or required for children. Since there is yet to be an effective vaccine developed and approved for safe use against COVID-19, this method cannot yet be used.

The other way to obtain herd protection is by allowing people to simply become infected, in the hope that at some point in the future, 60% to 90% of the population will become infected and immune. However, in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, this strategy could lead to significant illness and death. For most public health experts and clinicians, this solution is unacceptable as we seek to preserve life and avoid sickness. Additionally, it is unknown whether COVID-19 infection leads to lasting immunity.

Therefore, the conclusion remains the same: We still have more to learn about this novel coronavirus and, in the interim, we must continue with our preventive behaviors including mask-wearing, physical distancing, and proper hand hygiene, all of which have proven to be effective measures. The municipalities that practice these measures have a significantly lower infection rate. These measures do work!

As always, the New York Tech community is welcome to make an appointment for a flu shot or a COVID test at the Academic Health Care Center in Long Island by calling 516.686.1300. Those who may feel anxious or uneasy can 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

Copyright © 2020 New York Institute of Technology