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

As of May 6, more than 32.3 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tragically, there have also been more than 575,000 cumulative total deaths in the United States since the start of the pandemic. Over the past seven-day period, the state reporting the highest number of cases per 100,000 is Michigan (254), with California reporting the lowest (31).

The vaccine rollout continues, with more than 250 million doses administered in the U.S. To date, 44.7 percent of the population has received at least one dose and 32.3 percent is now fully vaccinated. In New York State, 47.2 percent has received at least one dose and 36.4 percent is fully vaccinated. The testing positivity rate in New York State on May 5 remained very low, at 1.71 percent.

Our medical school students, faculty, and staff in New York and Arkansas continue to contribute to the historic national vaccination effort. We are all supporting President Biden's goal to have 70 percent of adult Americans with at least one shot and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by July 4.

To date, coronavirus vaccines have been authorized for use only in adults and older teens. However, it has been reported that the FDA may authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to be given to 12- to 15-year-olds as soon as next week. With CDC approval and recommendations, this will expand the number of people being vaccinated and increase the likelihood of achieving national herd immunity. Pfizer-BioNTech has also shared that it will seek full FDA approval for its vaccine at the end of May. All COVID vaccines are currently "emergency-use" approved, but full FDA approval would help resolve legal concerns about mandating "emergency-use" vaccines, increase the likelihood of employer and college mandates, reduce vaccine hesitancy, and ultimately increase vaccination rates.

The Academic Health Care Center on the Long Island campus has both Pfizer (two-dose) and Jansen (one-dose) vaccines available for students, staff, and faculty. Please note that once fully vaccinated, employees no longer need to be restricted from work following exposure, as long as they are asymptomatic.

A race continues between the rates of vaccination and new variants. A recent New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) article noted that "The emergence of variant strains is arguably the greatest threat to control of the COVID-19 pandemic. A coordinated global prevention-and-control plan is the only way forward. Global investments in vaccine science and technology must be accompanied by investments in public health, genomics and disease surveillance, and programmatic immunization infrastructure to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and future pandemics."

However, the good news is that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine appears to be very effective in protecting against severe disease caused by two dangerous variants (U.K. and South African) by preventing severe pneumonia and death. This is based on two recent studies, one in NEJM and the other in The Lancet, which reference real-world use of the vaccine in Qatar and Israel.

The CDC continues to monitor variants of SARS Cov-2: the U.K. variant B.1.1.7 is still the predominant variant nationwide and represents as much as 72.3 percent of coronavirus variants in Tennessee, and has grown to represent 39 percent of the variants in New York State since last week.

From a global perspective, India remains the area of highest concern. On Thursday, May 6, it reported 412,262 new COVID-19 cases and 3,980 COVID-19 related deaths—new single-day records—according to a CNN report compiled from figures released by the Indian Health Ministry. It was also the ninth consecutive day the number of fatalities identified in India in a 24-hour period exceeded 3,000.

Addressing this second wave in India will require major international resources. The U.S. Agency for International Development has started delivering emergency supplies, including oxygen cylinders, rapid diagnostic tests, and 100,000 N95 masks, to help India protect its front-line health workers.

We have not yet eliminated this pandemic, and it is still prudent to continue to protect ourselves and others from infection with the appropriate use of community mitigation activities (including wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and remaining at home if ill or symptomatic). When on campus, mask wearing, social distancing, and other mitigation activities are expected of all community members.

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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