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Cuomo: COVID-19-positive rate in NY dips below 6%; hospitalizations still above 8,800

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo provides a coronavirus update

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo provides a coronavirus update from the Red Room at the State Capitol in Albany on Jan. 4. Credit: TNS / Office of the Governor / Mike Groll

Long Islanders continued to experience confusion and cancellations trying to obtain appointments for COVID-19 vaccines, as the state Saturday reported that the percentage of New Yorkers testing positive for the coronavirus dipped below 6% for the first time since December.

The number of hospitalizations statewide Friday rose to nearly 8,900, one of the highest numbers since early May.

New Yorkers have struggled all week to make vaccine appointments after the state more than tripled the number of people eligible. As many as 20,000 appointments for a state-run Stony Brook University site were canceled because registrants used improper links, state officials said.

In the last few days, Long Islanders have received cancellations of appointments at Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care centers and the Mount Sinai Health System.

More cancellations, complaints

Jaimie Hanlon booked appointments at the Syosset Northwell-GoHealth for her 90- and 92-year-old grandparents, who live in Plainview. On Friday night, she received an email that said, "We currently do not have availability for vaccinations due to limited supply from New York State and must cancel your appointment."

Northwell-GoHealth canceled an appointment for Phyllis Alvino, 78, of Port Jefferson Station, claiming she never really registered for a vaccination.

Adam Boll, executive director of joint venture operations for Northwell, said appointments for a few hundred people were canceled because the centers did not receive expected vaccine shipments.

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Far more people — he declined to say how many — who received cancellations never booked a vaccination, Boll said.

Instead, when people saw no vaccine slots were available, "they went ahead and chose that they had an illness or they chose they needed testing or a COVID-related visit where it said in parentheses ‘not a vaccine,’ and they booked those in the hopes of getting a vaccine." Those appointments were canceled.

Northwell later removed non-vaccine options from its vaccination website, Boll said.

Alvino's daughter, Carol Serapiglia, 49, of Selden, a teacher who also registered for herself, said she is "1,000%" sure she booked vaccinations.

"It said vaccine number one, vaccine number two, and I was sure to hit vaccine number one," because neither she nor her mother received the first of two required doses, she said.

Cheryl Silberman, 60, of Hauppauge, booked an appointment for her husband, Lee Silberman, 65, for Friday at Mount Sinai in Manhattan that was canceled the night before.

He later got an April Stony Brook appointment, "but there’s a big difference between January and April," she said.

Mount Sinai said in a statement that cancellations for appointments between Friday and Tuesday were "due to sudden changes in vaccine supply."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has repeatedly said the federal government is to blame for supply problems.

26 more Long Islanders die

New York's 5.77% positivity rate on Friday is far above the 1% or lower rate the state had most of the summer, but it is part of a steady decline since a post-spring peak on Jan. 5, when 8.4% of the tests were positive. The last time the rate was below 6% had been on Dec. 26, when it was 5.9%.

Another 157 New Yorkers died of COVID-19 on Friday and, continuing a weekslong trend, more Suffolk than Nassau residents died. Fifteen Suffolk residents died from the disease, compared with 11 in Nassau.

Hospitalizations stood at 8,888, an increase of 80 from Thursday. Friday was the fifth day in a row that hospitalizations were above 8,800, which is where they had last stood in early May.

There were nearly 22 times as many New Yorkers hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday as there were on Sept. 5, when 410 people were hospitalized.

Dr. David Hirschwerk, an infectious disease expert and interim chair of medicine at the Donald & Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, said holiday gatherings were a "very likely contributor" to the increased positivity rates in late December and early January and the high hospitalization numbers now.

"Hospitalizations and deaths will lag behind the positivity rates in the community," he said. "Generally, the first thing you would start to see would be a plateau and a fall in the positivity rates in the community. But the hospitalization and death rates could still remain high and continue to climb for some period of time before they start to stabilize and fall."

Hirschwerk said positivity rates could climb again because of the spread of the U.K. variant of the coronavirus. The state Saturday reported a 17th New York case of the variant, which is believed to be much more contagious. It was identified in Tompkins County.

"Even though there have been only a relative handful of this U.K. variant present, it is certain that there are more cases in the community," he said. "We just haven’t been able to do enough testing to look for this variant to know what the numbers are."

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