People went out to enjoy the sights around Times Square...

People went out to enjoy the sights around Times Square in Manhattan on Christmas Day, many wearing masks to reduce risk of coronavirus transmission. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

Cases of COVID-19 continued to rise in New York, even with a dip in testing during the holiday weekend, as health officials reminded people they need to be patient and take precautions against the virus during these first weeks of a national vaccination program.

The state reported 7,623 new cases of COVID-19 and 115 deaths related to the disease, according to statistics released by the state on Sunday. Nassau County accounted for 812 of the new cases and Suffolk County for 885.

There were 130,299 tests reported, a noticeable decrease through the holiday weekend. The statewide positivity rate remained similar to recent days at 5.85%. Nassau's rate was 6.1% and Suffolk's was 7%.

Officials are concerned that holiday gatherings, where people may not wear face coverings and observe social distancing, could lead to a greater number of cases in January.

"As we near the end of the holiday season, New York remains locked in a footrace between the vaccine's quick distribution and COVID-19's continued spread," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.

"It has been a tough year and we still have several tough months ahead, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we will make it there if we all do our part to slow the spread," Cuomo said.

He said the state is working with the medical community to get more people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

According to the state health department website, New York had received 630,000 vaccine doses and administered 89,000 doses as of Dec. 22.

The 115 coronavirus-related deaths reported Sunday included four people in Nassau County and eight people in Suffolk County.

Across the state, 7,183 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. Long Island accounts for 1,245 of those cases.

Cuomo has warned hospitals to remain below 85% capacity by taking steps such as finding more space for beds or eliminating elective surgeries.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday the growing number of cases and hospitalizations could put a strain on health care systems.

"When you're dealing with a baseline of 200,000 new cases a day and about 2,000 deaths per day, with hospitalizations over 120,000, we really are at a very critical point," he said during an interview on CNN’s "State of the Union."

Nationally, there have been about 19 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started and 332,705 related deaths, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. The number of new cases on Sunday was 226,274 along with 1,663 COVID-19-related deaths.

California continued to have the largest number of new cases, with a staggering 59,813 reported on Sunday, according to the resource center. That brings the total number in that state to over 2.1 million cases. There have also been 24,000 COVID-19-related deaths in the Golden State.

Hospitals in central and Southern California are quickly running out of intensive care unit beds for coronavirus patients and state officials are poised to extend the strictest stay-at-home orders there as conditions worsen before the post-holiday surge hits.

With AP

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