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Cuomo pleads for vigilance as COVID-19 numbers rise

A woman at the bus stop Saturday at

A woman at the bus stop Saturday at the Rosa Parks Hempstead Transit Center. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

For yet another devastating day, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pleaded with New Yorkers to keep up their guard against COVID-19 Saturday, even as the growing tally of hospitalizations and deaths showed people's resolve, if anything, was weakening.

Cuomo said he was concerned that the majority of new cases — 1,762 of them on Long Island — can be traced back to more private settings, rather than bars and restaurants.

"What's troubling is we are seeing a new trend where the majority of cases are traced to households and private gatherings," the governor said. "I understand New Yorkers may be feeling COVID fatigue, especially now that we have entered the holiday season and the first batch of vaccines is a couple weeks away, but if there was ever a time to double down and be vigilant, it's now."

The state's overall infection rate was 4.99%, far above the 2.86% average that occurred in the second week of November, according to state figures. The infection rate in focus areas was 6.17%, a jump from the 4.81% in that period last month. Even outside the focus areas, the infection rate was 4.59%, a significant rise from the 2.47% in that period last month, the figures showed.

"We continue to implement our data-driven winter plan and we are laser-focused on making sure New York's hospitals have enough capacity," Cuomo said.

A total of 621 additional New Yorkers were hospitalized Friday for a total of 4,318, the figures showed. The number of people in ICUs grew by 30 to 825, with 32 more people placed on intubation for a total of 435.

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Sixty-nine New Yorkers lost their lives to the virus — including eight in Suffolk County and three in Nassau County — for a statewide total of 27,089, the figures showed.

The picture on LI

On Long Island, Suffolk saw 1,064 new cases for a total of 65,993, the state figures showed. A total of 354 people were hospitalized, an increase of 17, according to county figures.

Forty-four were new admissions, and 53 people were in the ICU, a decrease of three. Twenty-nine people were intubated.

Overall, Suffolk had a positivity rate of 6.2%, county figures showed.

Nassau saw 698 new cases for a total of 64,359.

Nassau's positivity rate was about 5% of 14,066 tested, said County Executive Laura Curran. Nassau County’s hospitals reported 316 COVID-19-related patients with 42 in ICU and 22 on ventilators, she said.

"The vaccine is on the horizon but it is not the time to let our guard down. Infections continue to rise across New York and the nation, reminding us that this virus is still here and still dangerous," Curran said.

She added, "I know the holiday season brings unique challenges, but we all need to keep doing our part to contain the spread of COVID-19 to save lives, keep our businesses open and kids in school. I urge residents to wear masks in public, avoid unsafe gatherings and get tested if you have symptoms or have been exposed."

Some Long Island school districts continue to temporarily close schools to in-person learning because of COVID-19 cases. A notice on the website of the Half Hollow Hills district Saturday said "multiple" students at High School East have tested positive, and as a result, the school will move to full remote learning for at least Monday and Tuesday.

Increases seen elsewhere

In New York City, there have been 12,326 cases in the last week, totaling 304,862 since the pandemic came to the city in February, health officials there said. There have been 87 deaths there over the week, for a total of at least 19,653 based on a positive lab test, according to the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The department reported that all of its key indicators — cases, deaths, hospitalizations — are "increasing."

Globally, Johns Hopkins reports more than 1.5 million people have died from the pandemic, including more than 279,000 in the United States.

Rising cases are threatening to overwhelm hospitals in California, where Southern California, five San Francisco Bay Area counties and the San Joaquin Valley have imposed new, tighter restrictions that will take effect Sunday.

In St. Louis, children’s hospitals have started treating adult patients as area hospitals struggle to keep up with the rise in cases.

And North Carolina reported a record increase in cases and hospitalizations on Saturday. "In less than a week, we went from exceeding 5,000 new cases reported in one day to exceeding 6,000," said Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s health secretary. "This is very worrisome. This indicates we have even more viral spread across our state right now."

Cuomo reminded New Yorkers how they bent the curve early in the pandemic and expressed optimism residents could do it again.

"They already did the best job in the country the first time around, going from the highest infection rate to one of the lowest, and I have no doubt if we continue to stay smart, we will get through this together — stronger, tougher and more loving than before," he said.

With Matthew Chayes and AP.

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