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

As of April 29 2021, more than 32 million cases of COVID-19 and over 571,000 cumulative deaths have been reported in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since the start of the pandemic. Over the past seven-day period, the state reporting the highest number of cases per 100,000 is Rhode Island (at 184 per 100,000), and the state reporting the least number of cases is Hawaii (at 37 per 100,000). This information may be helpful for those planning a domestic vacation!

The vaccine rollout continues, with more than 237 million doses being administered in the U.S. Currently, 43.3 percent of the nation's population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 30 percent are fully vaccinated. In New York State, 45.6 percent have received at least one dose, and 33.42 percent are fully vaccinated; the testing positivity rate on April 29, 2021 was 1.98 percent. Our medical school students, faculty, and staff in New York and Arkansas should be commended for contributing to this historic national vaccination effort.

Vaccine access also continues to improve. All New Yorkers age 16 and up are now eligible for walk-in vaccine appointments at vaccination sites run by New York City and New York State. Our Academic Health Center on the Long Island campus also has both Pfizer (two-dose) and Jansen (one-dose) vaccines available for students, staff, and faculty.

As a result of the successful vaccine rollout, the CDC has promulgated new guidelines. Highlights include:
  1. Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outdoors, except in certain crowded settings and venues.
  2. Fully vaccinated workers no longer need to be restricted from work following an exposure as long as they are asymptomatic.
  3. Fully vaccinated residents of non-healthcare congregate settings no longer need to quarantine following a known exposure.
  4. Fully vaccinated asymptomatic people without an exposure may be exempted from routine screening testing, if feasible.
The CDC continues to monitor variants of SARS Cov-2, and the B.1.1.7 (U.K. variant) continues to be the predominant variant nationwide. It represents as much as 72.3 percent of the coronavirus variants in Tennessee and 37.9 percent in New York.

From a global perspective, India is an area of major concern, with a very severe new wave of infections, hospitalizations, and mortality contributing to a lack of medical supplies. It is suspected that these new more communicable variants play a significant role in this new wave.

In the U.S., the New England Journal of Medicine reported on two vaccine breakthrough infections related to emerging variants, which have always been a concern. This should not discourage anyone from being vaccinated, but it is important for epidemiologists and clinicians to continue to monitor closely.

As we continue to encourage vaccination, there are some who remain hesitant to be vaccinated. For those who refuse or are unable to be vaccinated, every effort should be made to remain as healthy as possible. We know that people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness. These conditions include chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, diagnosed diabetes, and obesity. The CDC has developed a dashboard to present county-level, model-based estimates of the prevalence of these underlying medical conditions.

As we continue to improve our national immunity to COVID-19 and community mitigation rules loosen, we will all need to use individual judgment regarding community mitigation activities (including wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and remaining at home if ill or symptomatic). We have not yet eliminated this pandemic, and it is still prudent to continue to protect ourselves and others from infection.

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 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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