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Surgeon general warns of winter COVID-19 uptick

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Sunday warned of a potential uptick in COVID-19 cases, with falling temperatures and more Americans gathering indoors during the holiday season.

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“As winter approaches again and as people get prepared for the holidays, we should be prepared for the fact that there may be an uptick in cases that we see in various parts of the country with cold weather,” Murthy said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

Murthy urged those eligible to get vaccinated or to get their booster shot, saying the three federally approved vaccines — by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — “still give you a high degree of protection.”

“The good news is that we are certainly well down from the peaks that we had during the delta wave earlier this year in the late summer,” Murthy said, referring to the more transmissible variant of the virus. “But as winter does approach, people do go indoors, and the virus is also better able to transmit in cold, dry air. So we know that increases the possibility that there will be spread.”

Murthy said federal regulators were continuing to evaluate a request by Pfizer-BioNTech to expand booster shot eligibility to all adults under the age of 65. The current eligibility group for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna is limited to those ages 65 and older, adults 18 and older with qualifying health problems and workers with an increased risk of infection due to the nature of their jobs. All adults 18 and older who are two months out from their first dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a booster.

“The bottom line is, millions of people can get boosted right now,” Murthy said. “We want them to get boosted because that will both extend and enhance the protection that they’ve already been getting from the vaccines.”

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The average number of daily new infections in the United States has dropped to an average of 74,000 cases per day, compared to a peak of 172,000 new cases a day in mid-September, during the peak of the delta wave, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

On Long Island, the seven-day positivity rate reached 3.12% on Saturday, after exceeding 3% on Friday for the first time since September, according to state statistics.

Statewide, 29 New Yorkers died of complications from COVID-19, including four in Suffolk County.

“As the weather gets colder and the holiday season approaches, friends and family will be spending more time indoors, increasing the risk of transmission and threatening the incredible progress we’ve made so far,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “In order to keep our loved ones safe … I encourage New Yorkers to get vaccinated, wear a mask indoors and remember to wash your hands.”

Across Long Island, thousands of those ages 5 to 11 — the most recent age group to be approved by the government for vaccination — continue to get the shots.

One estimate, made last week by a physician in charge of Northwell Health vaccination efforts, estimated that more than 10,000 youth in the age group had gotten the shots on the Island.

Allied Physicians Group, vaccinated about 1,300 at two mass vaccination sites on Saturday: Coleman Country Day Camp in Freeport and Crestwood Day Camp in Melville, said Bill Corbett, an outside spokesman for the Melville-based partnership of 180 pediatric providers.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health said that 27,385 kids aged 5 to 11 outside of New York City had been vaccinated as of Friday. Updated numbers would be available on Monday, she added.

With David Olson

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