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COVID-19 positive rates fall, but hospitalizations double over early September, data shows

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday said communities

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday said communities statewide where the coronavirus has spiked could threaten New York's overall falling infection rate. Credit: AFP / Johannes Eisele via Getty Images

The percentage of New Yorkers testing positive for COVID-19 dipped under 1% Saturday for the first time in weeks, but the number of people hospitalized with the virus has doubled since early September, according to state data.

New York saw 1,143 of some 118,000 tests reported to the state on Saturday come back as positive, for a rate of 0.96%, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters Sunday. That's down from 1.07% Friday and below 1% for the first time since Sept. 24.

But 820 people were hospitalized with the virus on Saturday, Cuomo said. On Sept. 5, the number was 410, state data shows.

The last time 820 people or more were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state was July 14, when the virus was still receding in New York from its high point in the spring.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus on Long Island has also crept upward in recent weeks, reaching 90 on Saturday, according to state data. The last time 90 people were hospitalized with the virus in the region was Aug. 18.

Cuomo on Sunday did not directly address the rise in hospitalizations, but he connected it to "hot spot" communities where infection rates are higher than the state average.

On Saturday, 5.74% of tests came back positive from sections of Brooklyn, Queens and Rockland and Orange counties, Cuomo said. Cuomo noted the areas seeing a resurgence of the virus have large ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

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"The number of hospitalizations are coming from those communities," he said.

On Tuesday, Cuomo announced new restrictions on coronavirus hot spots in New York City, upstate Binghamton and Rockland and Orange counties, limiting houses of worship to no more than 10 people, prohibiting mass gatherings and closing schools and nonessential businesses. Parts of Nassau's Five Towns community face restrictions as well.

The order sparked protests in Borough Park, Brooklyn, last week at which a journalist was allegedly assaulted.

Speaking on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, Cuomo on Sunday appealed to Hasidic Jews to refrain from large gatherings while the public health crisis persists.

"I understand the desire to hold large religious ceremonies," the governor said. "I understand how important it is to their culture and their religion. I also understand that it, as a matter of fact, jeopardizes human life."

He added: "The point here is to save a life and not to endanger others. Not to endanger others in the same congregation. Not to endanger others in the same community. And that's what is happening with these large congregations."

Sunday night the New York City government said on Twitter that since Friday, 62 summonses with $150,000 in fines were handed out by city agents in the red, orange and yellow zones designating COVID-19 hot spot neighborhoods, including five to religious congregations.

Also, Sunday night, the NYPD warrant squad arrested anti-mask activist Heshy Tischler on charges of inciting a riot and unlawful imprisonment, in connection with the assault in Borough Park last week on an Orthodox Jewish reporter — an attack caught on video that went viral on Twitter — according to an NYPD news release.

Cuomo said 1% of tests reported on Long Island on Saturday were positive and five New Yorkers died from the virus. Suffolk County reported 74 new cases, while Nassau County recorded 92.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, in a statement Sunday, said the county will "aggressively crush any clusters through a mixture of enhanced education and enforcement of social distance and masking protocols."

Cuomo called for "aggressive enforcement" to combat the rising case numbers in hot-spot areas. He expressed frustration with what he described as lax enforcement of COVID-19 health and safety regulations by certain local governments in the state.

At least four people have tested positive for the virus at Paul D. Schreiber Senior High School in Port Washington, Port Washington school district officials said.

The high school was closed Friday following the first case. Three more people have since tested positive, and the school will remain closed on Tuesday, Principal Ira Pernick wrote in a letter to the school community on Sunday. With Matthew Chayes

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