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Cuomo: New York should remain 'on high alert' as COVID-19 spreads across U.S.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen here in March,

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen here in March, has continued to focus on implementing business, school and gathering restrictions in neighborhoods considered "micro-clusters" for coronavirus cases to try to limit the spread in New York. Credit: Office of the Governor

This story was reported by Jesse Coburn, Bart Jones, Michael O’Keeffe and John Valenti. It was written by Jones.

New York continues to have a lower positivity rate for the coronavirus than most states in the country, but Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state and residents should remain "on high alert" as holidays and related travel raise risks.

He noted that the state's neighbors, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, have seen their case numbers rise despite achieving lower rates in the summer.

COVID-19 could easily surge again in New York, Cuomo said, "So we should be on high alert and we should be even more diligent, because the virus spreads and just goes across state boundaries."

He added: "These are dangerous times all around us."

Cuomo said the state will continue to pursue its "micro-cluster approach," focusing on restricting activities and increasing testing in neighborhoods seeing spikes of new virus cases, "because it has worked."

The state reported an overall positivity rate of 1.4% from Sunday test results excluding those focus zones, where the percent positive was 3.5%. Including those red, orange and yellow zones with higher virus levels, the state's positivity rate tracked at 1.7% for test results completed that day.

By comparison, the positivity rate was 13.8% in Pennsylvania, 4.1% in New Jersey, and 3% in Connecticut. New York had the third-lowest level in the country.

Fourteen state residents died of coronavirus-related causes on Sunday, Cuomo said. Statewide, 1,151 patients were hospitalized because of the virus.

The latest numbers in New York came as the United States as a whole is breaking records for new confirmed cases of COVID-19. The country broke the record for new cases in a single day on Friday, logging more than 99,000 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking cases worldwide.

The U.S. has accumulated 9.2 million confirmed cases of the virus since the pandemic hit, more than any country in the world. More than 231,000 people have died of causes related to the virus.

The governor on Monday also raised concerns about the anticipated vaccination program for COVID-19 and requirements that people receiving the vaccine provide identification number such as their driver's license, passport or Social Security numbers. That information, he cautioned, would then become available to federal agencies and put immigrants lacking legal status at risk of deportation.

New York has clashed with the federal administration, refusing to share its driver's license records for immigration enforcement purposes.

"The data use agreement says the information will be used by CDC, HHS [Health and Human Services] and other federal partners … Now, I have been down this road before. This is an administration that has from Day One with the wall been relentless in their pursuit of undocumented people," Cuomo said.

"I'm not going to give information that could be used to deport people," he said.

High school closing extended in Shoreham

With more than 135 students and staff members currently in quarantine, officials said Shoreham-Wading River High School will be closed to in-person learning through Nov. 11.

In a note to parents and guardians, district Superintendent Gerard W. Poole said the total number of high school students quarantined is now 125, along with 11 staff members.

In the Patchogue-Medford schools, 47 students and 15 teachers are quarantined because of possible contact with others in the district who tested positive for COVID-19, district officials said Monday.

The Lynbrook schools also announced they are closing North Middle School and West End Elementary School and switching to remote learning for two weeks, with an expected return date of Nov. 16, after students tested positive for the virus, a Monday letter from Superintendent Melissa Burak said.

Five Patchogue-Medford students and one staffer tested positive for the virus last week, and four students tested positive the week prior, according to a state database of coronavirus cases in schools.

Superintendent Donna Jones said the "uptick" is the result of one-off cases not tied to a particular classroom or social event. Patchogue-Medford officials are coordinating with public health authorities, and no district schools are closed, she said.

Jones noted the number of people who’ve tested positive or are quarantined are small fractions of the district’s roughly 7,300 students and 1,400 staffers.

Long Island public and private schools had, as of Friday, reported 997 coronavirus positives since Sept. 8, according to the state’s COVID-19 Report Card. Of those, 743 were students and 254 were teachers and staff members. The statewide tally was 3,184 students and 1,627 teachers and staff members for 4,811 who tested positive in that period.

In New York City, Mayor Bill Blasio reminded parents that they have until Nov. 15 to decide whether they want to send their children to public schools for in-person classes on a part-time basis or keep them learning from home until next fall. Only about a quarter of the city’s 1.1 million students has opted for in-person learning.

Twenty-one of the city’s 1,600 schools that have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks were closed Monday, de Blasio said, but officials believe schools have not been a significant source of the recent uptick in coronavirus cases.