News about an FDA approval for the coronavirus vaccine is monumental, but we must not allow it to lull us into a false sense of complacency. This war isn’t over — in fact, there are still a few battles ahead. We are not immune to the nationwide Covid-19 surge, and in the past month we have seen positivity and hospitalization numbers that are the highest they’ve been since we reopened in May.
Our data is beginning to show a more even distribution of disease activity among all age groups across the county. This virus doesn’t discriminate, and its reach is once again widespread across all our communities.
I know that this has been a long and tiring battle, but now is not the time to let our guards down. We can’t allow Covid fatigue to get the better of us when we’re so close to the finish line. We have reached a clear point of community spread that calls for increased vigilance from all of us. I continue to ask all residents to stick with the common-sense measures we know will keep us, and our loved ones, safe: Wear a mask, stay six feet apart and avoid unsafe gatherings. These simple measures can prevent us from going backward.
Furthermore, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has said that Covid-19 will continue to disrupt lives until an “overwhelming majority” of people get the vaccine. Polls show, however, that as many as half of Americans have reservations about the shots.
In response, Nassau County is launching the “We Can Do It, Nassau” campaign, a public-awareness campaign promoting confidence in the U.S. vaccine effort, emphasizing unity and patriotism and the importance of the vaccines to ensure that schools return to normal and we continue on the path toward a strong economic recovery in the county. The campaign is a tribute to Rosie the Riveter, the cultural icon representing women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II. During the war, defense workers on Long Island turned out hundreds of military planes a month for Grumman, in Bethpage, and Republic Aviation, in Farmingdale. The county’s campaign seeks to remind the public of the extraordinary challenges that Americans — including Long Islanders — have overcome in the past and inspire residents to likewise step up for their country today.
As county executive, I’ve made keeping schools and businesses open one of my highest priorities. As we manage the increase in cases because of the holidays and cold weather, the county will do everything in its power to keep education and commerce operating, but we need your help. Robust testing is key, and I am committed to continuing to assist schools in meeting testing requirements so we can keep our kids in school safely and keep our business community open through the winter.
At the moment, hospital capacity isn’t a pressing threat in Nassau County, but the trend is in the wrong direction. To save lives and prevent further restrictions on restaurants and other businesses, we must do everything we can to hold the line. At the peak of the pandemic, we had almost 2,600 patients hospitalized with Covid-19, and 505 of them were on ventilators. As of Monday, we had 419 people hospitalized, with 36 on ventilators. We expect those numbers to go up, and the county is ready to increase capacity for hospital and ICU units as needed. I’ve been in constant conversation with hospital executives to ensure preparedness for a potential surge in cases as well as the upcoming pivot to vaccine storage and distribution.
I know that the holiday season brings unique challenges, but if we follow the guidance of our trusted public health professionals, we can save lives and keep our businesses and schools open while we eagerly await the distribution of the vaccine, our light at the end of the tunnel. We have worked so hard to contain this virus — let’s not lose our progress now.
Lauran Curran is the Nassau County executive.