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NY providing $30M to counties for contact tracing, flu vaccine prep, Gov. Cuomo says

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at a news briefing

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at a news briefing at the State Capitol in Albany on July 24. Credit: Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo / Mike Groll

The state will provide counties $30 million for contact tracing, federal funds for flu vaccines and offer financial incentives to a Long Island company and 11 others in New York to manufacture medical supplies, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday.

Cuomo said he is concerned the upcoming flu season will put more pressure on a health care system that could face a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

"People will need flu tests. They will also want COVID tests," Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters. "The symptoms of the flu will look like the symptoms of COVID … We want the counties to be ready with their flu vaccines and flu testing."

The state will distribute $2 million in federal funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for county health departments in an effort to increase flu vaccination rates. Flu season typically starts in the fall and vaccines are usually available in October.

As part of the funding package, Nassau and Suffolk counties will each receive more than $3 million in state funds to increase staffing for contact tracing, specifically detection, surveillance and prevention of COVID-19.

Cuomo also said 41 bars and restaurants, including three in Nassau County, were hit with violations of coronavirus safety measures Wednesday. Twenty of the violations went to establishments in Manhattan. The state suspended the liquor license of seven bars in the city as well as Westchester and Erie counties for "egregious violations" of pandemic-related executive orders, he announced in a news release later Thursday.

"The phenomenon of increasing infection rate among young people … is not a New York phenomenon," Cuomo said. "It's an international phenomenon. The World Health Organization has warned about it."

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Cuomo said 777 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday out of more than 73,000 tested, for a statewide rate of 1.06%.

He said 586 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, the lowest since March 17.

"That is all great, great news," he said.

An additional 13 deaths were attributed to the virus, bringing the state's total to 25,145, Cuomo said.

Empire Bio Diagnostics Corp. in Mineola was among 12 New York companies awarded a total of $6.9 million by the state to help produce the medical supplies, Cuomo said.

The funds are part of larger program to ramp up manufacturing of ventilators, test kids, respirators, surgical masks and other items to help New York prepare for any future surges of COVID-19. In March, the state awarded eight firms $4 million toward that effort.

The Mineola company will receive $500,000 as an incentive to boost production of Viral Transport Medium [VTM] Kits, which are used to transport COVID-19 test samples.

Also Thursday, the governor — citing financial instability in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic — said he was postponing a $3 billion environmental bond act aimed at improving drinking water and other protections.

"The financial situation now is unstable," he said. "We are waiting to see what the federal government supplies in aid."

Cuomo also pointed to a "murky" economic situation in New York City due to COVID-19, increasing crime, homelessness and civil unrest

And in another sign of the financial toll exacted by the coronavirus, the Port Authority released figures Thursday showing an approximate $777 million drop in revenues through June 30, 2020. Officials said the agency has lost about $240 million a month since the economic shutdown in March, with fewer people using public transportation and airports.

The infection rate on Long Island was 1.2% on Wednesday. There were 58 new cases reported in Nassau and 86 in Suffolk, according to state figures.

"Our residents understand and appreciate how far we have come in flattening the curve and are working to mitigate risk and prevent further spread of the virus," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement.

Park Shore Day Camp in Deer Park said it would close until Monday for extensive cleaning after learning one of its campers tested positive for COVID-19. Officials said the new case is unrelated to staff members who tested positive and have been off campus for two weeks.

During his daily COVID-19 update, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone weighed in on the controversy over last weekend's Water Mill drive-in concert by the pop duo the Chainsmokers. Videos showing crowds violating social distancing and mask regulations brought a swift, strong rebuke from Cuomo and state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker earlier this week.

“It’s important to keep in context this was a charity event," Bellone said. "There were a number of protocols put in place. People were temperature checked, security was in place.”

He said most people stayed by their cars but problems appeared to take place in the VIP area.

“That turned out to be a mistake and we should learn from that," Bellone said. "It was the first event of its kind … that kind of thing can’t happen.”

He also repeated his call for federal aid to fund increased needs in the county, saying domestic violence shelters are at capacity, calls to a suicide prevention/mental health hotline are up 100% and demand for Meals on Wheels has increased by 60%.

Cuomo also announced that 30 health care workers from New York are headed to Utah in the coming days to assist in that state's battle against COVID-19.

"That hospital system [Utah's Intermountain Healthcare] was very generous to New York when we needed help," Cuomo said. "We won't forget. We don't forget. We will do for them what they did for us."

With Rachelle Blidner

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