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COVID-19 pandemic continues to spike in New York

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put the Heroes Bill on the floor of the Senate to allocate the money required to effectively distribute a coronavirus vaccine. Credit: Craig Ruttle

The coronavirus pandemic continued its resurgence in New York on Saturday, with metrics presented by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday showing the public health crisis is reaching levels not seen in the state in months.

The state statistics show 3,372 people were hospitalized with the virus in New York on Saturday, more than twice the number from three weeks ago. Statewide, 4.27% of COVID-19 tests Saturday were positive, a jump of 0.77% from last Saturday. And 55 New Yorkers died from the virus Saturday, a figure last surpassed in June.

On Long Island, the percentage of positive tests Saturday was 4.1% — the second time in a week the positivity rate was 4% or higher. Before then, the last time the positivity rate in the region was above 4% was June. One thousand eighty-five people tested positive for the virus on Long Island Saturday, and seven people died from it, state statistics show.

"This is a new phase for COVID," the governor warned on a conference call with reporters on Sunday. "The numbers are going up. Not as fast as in other states, but the numbers are going up."

Cuomo suggested the negative trend would continue through the holiday season, as New Yorkers weary of social distancing protocols gather indoors with friends and family, giving the virus more opportunities to spread. He said the numbers may level off in January.

"After New Year's Day, look a week or 10 days afterwards, hopefully the social activity slows at that point and the infection rate starts to level off," he said.

The rise in hospitalizations is particularly important, Cuomo said, as it could put a burden on the state's hospital system. Cuomo said he would discuss the issue and a plan to combat the virus through the winter on Monday.

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Infection rates remain relatively high in some Long Island communities where the state has imposed heightened restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, statistics released Sunday show. On average over the seven days prior, 5.12% of tests came back positive in a state-designated "focus area" around Massapequa Park. In another focus area around Hampton Bays, the figure was 7%. It was 3.49% in Riverhead and 3.93% in Great Neck.

Also on Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said it will cost states $30 billion to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, and he urged the Republican-controlled Senate to pass a $2 trillion relief bill.

In New York alone, the cost to distribute vaccines, educate the public, hire health care workers and establish clinics will be "hundreds of millions" of dollars, Schumer said at a Manhattan news conference.

While he called it "good news" that clinical trials suggest three potential vaccines are effective, he said work will largely fall to states to administer them.

"The states need help to do the rest of it — to get the shots in arm. And it takes dollars," he said.

Money for state vaccine distribution is in the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act, which the House of Representatives passed in early October. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has so far refused to bring the bill to the floor, favoring instead a less costly relief package.

Schumer said states will likely need to establish new clinics, including mobile ones, in some areas.

"We have to make sure the vaccine is distributed equitably. In rich, middle class and poor areas. Among people of all races, religions, creeds and colors," he said. "This should be a moment of clarity for everyone, Democrats and Republicans. This is a huge crisis. We need big relief."

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