Hunter public health controller Dr David Durrheim says it is too early to start "living with COVID-19" as the region's vaccination rates lag up to 19 percentage points behind the state average.
Federal government figures published on Monday evening show adult double-dose rates in Muswellbrook (34.1 per cent), Cessnock (36.9) and Singleton (37.6) local government areas remain well short of the 53.1 per cent state rate.
Maitland, another traditional coalfields LGA, is also well off the pace at 42.7 per cent as the government continues planning to reopen parts of the economy in three to four weeks when NSW reaches 70 per cent over-16 vaccination.
Upper Hunter LGA leads the region with 51.2 per cent of those aged 16 and over fully vaccinated.
Port Stephens (50.1), Lake Macquarie (49), Dungog (48.3) and Newcastle (47.4) are also within reach of the NSW average.
Hunter New England Health reported 24 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, the fourth time in six days the tally has exceeded 24.
"Now's not the time to live with COVID-19," Dr Durrheim warned.
"Now's the time to make sure we're well prepared for COVID-19 when it spreads widely in our community.
"Until everyone has two doses, we cannot live safely."
Across NSW, 82.5 per cent of the over-16 population has received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Monday that 20 per cent of children aged 12 to 15 had received a first dose since vaccination opened to that age group last Monday.
NSW reported 935 locally acquired cases in the 24 hours to 8pm Sunday, the first time the state's daily count has dipped below 1000 since August 27.
Ms Berejiklian said the fall in positive tests was encouraging but warned that deaths would continue rising in coming weeks.
The new Hunter New England cases included 11 in Newcastle local government area, seven in Lake Macquarie, three in Maitland, two in Port Stephens and one in Tamworth.
Fifteen of the new cases were infectious in the community.
In Newcastle, three cases were in Shortland, two in Newcastle East and one each in Elermore Vale, Wallsend, Bar Beach, Waratah, Birmingham Gardens and Carrington.
The Lake Macquarie cases included two in Morisset, two in Edgeworth and one in Arcadia Vale, Toronto and Dora Creek.
The other Hunter infections were in Rutherford, East Maitland, Thornton and two in Tanilba Bay.
HNEH announced new exposure sites at Newcastle Airport on Tuesday morning after a Northern Territory resident flew from Newcastle to Brisbane on Friday then on to Darwin before testing positive at the Howard Springs quarantine facility.
The check-in hall, security screening area and departure lounge facilities at the airport have been identified as casual contact exposure sites from 2.20 to 3.35pm on Friday.
The Northern Territory government announced on Monday that the 53-year-old passenger had tested positive on Sunday night.
The Territory government said the man had travelled on a Jetstar flight to Darwin with a mask on and was asymptomatic.
Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles said she believed the man had been fully vaccinated.
She said 24 people, including 20 who were sitting near the man on his flight and four staff at the airport, had been identified as close contacts.
The remaining 111 passengers on the Darwin flight had been deemed casual contacts and ordered to self-isolate and get tested.
The Hunter has 291 active cases, including 13 in hospital and two in intensive care. The number of close contacts in isolation has jumped to 742.
The death toll during the latest outbreak in NSW grew to four on Monday after two men in their 60s died at Liverpool Hospital, a man in his 80s at Nepean Hospital and a woman in her 80s at Wollongong Hospital.
NSW has reported 245 COVID-related deaths since June 16 and 301 in total since the start of the pandemic.
The state has 1207 COVID-19 cases admitted to hospital, including 236 people in intensive care and 123 requiring ventilation.
The state's chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, announced on Monday that the Cowra area would go back into lockdown from 5pm after a nine-year-old boy tested positive.
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