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

As of March 25, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported more than 29.7 million cases of COVID-19. Tragically, there have been over 541,000 cumulative total deaths in the United States since the start of the pandemic. However, the average numbers of deaths, hospitalizations, and new infections continue to decline nationwide, while the rate of vaccination continues to climb. Nationally, 25.7 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. On a local level, the percentages of the population who have received at least one dose is: New York County, 31.5 percent; Kings County, 19.9 percent; Queens County, 25.2 percent; Bronx County, 19.7 percent; Richmond County, 26.6 percent; Westchester County, 30.9 percent; Nassau County, 32.6 percent; and Suffolk County, 26.4 percent.

As a reminder, New Yorkers 50 years of age and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, it remains challenging to schedule an appointment.

In Arkansas, based on the 657,145 people who have received at least one dose of vaccine out of a population of approximately 3 million, the vaccination rate is about 21.9 percent. Our own NYITCOM-Arkansas is playing an invaluable role in not only testing and contact tracing but also in providing vaccinations in rural and underserved areas as well.

As a result of the improving COVID-19 data, there are many positive signs of a return to normal. The CDC has recently reduced the physical/social distance requirements in K-12 schools from six feet to three feet, which allows more students to return to in-school learning. In New York State:
  1. Indoor fitness classes will be reopening statewide at 33 percent capacity with health screening and contact information required at sign-in.
  2. Beginning April 5, the 11 p.m. curfew currently in place for casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, billiards halls, gyms, and fitness centers will be lifted. However, the 11 p.m. curfew for food and beverage establishments and the midnight curfew for catered events will remain in effect.
  3. Starting April 1, 2021, domestic travelers will no longer be required to quarantine after entering New York State from another U.S. state or U.S territory (unless they have been exposed to COVID-19).
The ability for the U.S. to return to a “state of normalcy” will depend not only on vaccination rates, but also on the concerning issue of variants and ongoing community mitigation efforts. New York City, for example, is being somewhat more cautious in reopening the city, due to concerns about variants. The P.1 Brazilian variant, found in a Brooklyn man, has been designated a "variant of concern," which means there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease, and the potential for reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines. Additionally, New York City has its own variants of COVID-19 (B.1.525 & B.1.526). It is important to note that although new variants pose a potential threat to the effectiveness of vaccines, evidence still suggests it is safer to be vaccinated if coming in contact with these new variants. Further, it cannot be overstated that as more people become immunized to COVID-19, the more difficult it becomes for new variants to develop and be transmitted.

Although 14 percent of the U.S. has been fully vaccinated and over 25 percent have been partially vaccinated, we still have to practice community mitigation activities, including wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and remaining at home if ill or symptomatic. Another preventive measure we can all take is to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity was previously known to increase the risk for severe COVID-19–associated illness, but in a recent study, it was shown that obesity was also a risk factor for hospitalization and death, particularly among adults over 65 years of age.

As part of our efforts to keep the campus safe from COVID-19, New York Tech will conduct routine surveillance testing on April 7 on the Long Island campus and for New York City residence hall students. As always, the 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 continue to 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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