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

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of January 20, 2021, more than 24.135 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States alone. Tragically, we have surpassed the grim milestone of over 400,000 total deaths in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.

Fortunately, the daily death toll has decreased since last week; however, from a global perspective, the U.S. experienced the largest number of deaths of any country in the past seven days. For those interested in local data, the CDC has a great tool to obtain county-level surveillance information.

As we continue to address this pandemic, the COVID vaccine represents a mix of hope and concern. According to Governor Cuomo, “New York State is now averaging approximately 65,000 shots per day, and we have administered 86 percent of the state's first-dose vaccine allocation from the federal government.” There is a growing concern that there will be a vaccine shortage in New York, and efforts are being made to encourage President Biden and the new administration to obtain additional vaccines. In a Business Insider op-ed this week, I offer additional information about steps the government needs to take in rolling out vaccines.

Unfortunately, two more cases of the U.K. coronavirus variant (B117) were recently reported in Suffolk County, N.Y., bringing the total B117 cases in New York State to 22. The state health department’s Wadsworth Laboratory continues to monitor for this variant, which, as previously reported, may be up to 70 percent more transmissible than previous forms. The good news is that the existing vaccine is expected to protect against it. Pfizer has reported, in a non-peer-reviewed study, that it is unlikely this new variant will evade immunity developed from the vaccine.

This is well-received news, particularly since the U.K. variant is the only one detected in the U.S. thus far. However, a new Brazillian variant is of major global concern. Similar to the U.K. and South Africa strains, this variant (P.1) has acquired a mutation on the spike protein it uses to interact with human cells. So far, studies have yet to provide evidence that the existing vaccine will protect against it. Due to these concerns, President Biden will maintain a ban on travelers from the U.K. and Brazil.

As we see increases in the number of variants and challenges with the vaccine rollout, the importance of community mitigation activities (including wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and remaining at home if ill or symptomatic) cannot be overstated. Increasingly, small gatherings have become a focus in discussions about the spread of the coronavirus. Although it has not been clearly demonstrated how much they contribute to overall community spread, it is reasonable to remain cognizant of the distinct possibility of transmission in small gatherings and do all we can to prevent it. The CDC offers these recommendations on gatherings.

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 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
Vice President, Equity and Inclusion

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