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'Stay New York smart': Cuomo urges residents to keep coronavirus in check through holiday

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran spoke Friday about the opening of county pools, just in time for the holiday weekend.  Credit: Howard Schnapp

This story was reported by Candice Ferrette, Bart Jones and David Olson. It was written by Jones.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday urged people to remain vigilant this Fourth of July holiday weekend as COVID-19 cases soar in other states around the country, despite New York's better performance than most in curtailing the spread of the virus.

"New York continues to make progress combating the scourge of COVID-19, even as we see heavily increasing infections in other states," he said in a statement.

Some 918 people were confirmed positive for COVID-19 out of 66,392 tested Thursday, for a 1.38% level of positives, according to state data released Friday.

The level on Long Island was 0.9%, and in New York City 1.5%.

Those results are “a reminder that the virus is still here and I cannot repeat enough that our actions today — those of individuals being smart and following all precautions, and local governments enforcing the state's guidelines — will determine which direction these numbers go,” Cuomo said.

“This holiday weekend, please wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, and stay New York smart," he said.

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His comments came as the total number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus pandemic neared 11 million worldwide, and the total number of deaths surpassed 500,000 across the globe, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States, which has been breaking its own daily record of new confirmed cases with more than 50,000 a day, is by far the leader in both cases and deaths worldwide.

It has logged more than 2.7 million confirmed cases, and more than 129,000 deaths.

Four days of an uptick in NY

The 1.38% positive test results on Thursday marked the fourth day in a row the rate has risen, dating to Sunday when the level was 0.84%. It was also the first time the percentage hovered near 1.4% since June 8, according to state health department data.

There are occasional blips in the positivity rate, such as on June 25, when the rate rose from 1.1% to 1.3% before falling the next day to 0.96%.

“On any given day, it may be a reflection of some testing issue,” said Dr. Susan Donelan, medical director of health care epidemiology at Stony Brook Medicine.

But, she said, “When I see a trend, it does raise a concern that the social distancing and mask-wearing noncompliance is sneaking into an increased number of cases.”

She added: “It’s this kind of trickle that becomes a stream, that becomes a river, that becomes a torrent.”

Donelan also is concerned about the rise in New York’s infection rate, which is the average number of people infected by a person who tests positive for the coronavirus.

That rate fell from nearly 2.6 in mid-March to .70 in early May, but it has slowly been moving upward, to .96 by Thursday, according to Covid Act Now, a website that works with epidemiologists and other health experts and tracks COVID-19 statistics nationwide. The website recently increased New York’s risk level from the lowest — “on track to contain COVID” — to the less positive “controlled disease growth.”

Donelan said that is another worrying sign that an increased number of New Yorkers are not adhering to social-distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.

“You want to try to keep it as much below one as possible,” she said of the infection rate.

Infection numbers are low overall

Nassau County registered 37 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Thursday, Suffolk had 47, and New York City 460.

“Hospitalizations continued to decline, and we saw a low rate of positive tests, which show the state continues on the right track as we practice a slow, data-driven and incremental reopening,” Cuomo said. 

The daily death toll from the coronavirus was nine statewide, down from a peak of nearly 800 in April. The state said 857 people were hospitalized for COVID-19, a drop of 21 patients from the previous day. At the height of the pandemic, nearly 19,000 were in hospitals throughout the state being treated for COVID-19.

New York’s continuing low-infection numbers came as other states broke daily records for the number of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Cuomo has imposed a 14-day self-quarantine requirement on travelers coming to New York from 16 states with high levels of coronavirus cases. They include Florida, Texas, California and Arizona. Also, the return of indoor dining was postponed in New York City to prevent exposure to the virus in enclosed spaces.

Nassau now has had a total of 41,947 confirmed cases of coronavirus, Suffolk has had 41,538, and New York City 216,362. The statewide figure is 395,872.

Before the next phase

In Nassau and Suffolk, county officials reminded residents of their recreation options for the weekend. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran talked about the reopening of county pools this weekend and some of the protocols, as well as the food trucks that will service those patrons.

Curran encouraged Long Island residents to explore the region, rather than risk virus exposure in states battling a rise in infections.

“A lot of people I’m speaking to are really considering a 'staycation' this year,” Curran said. “Overseas travel is limited. We’re seeing spikes of cases in other states, and I just read this morning in the paper 40 out of 50 other states seeing an increase of cases, so a lot of people are looking around and seeing what can I do locally. Well, I’m happy to tell you there is a lot.”

In Suffolk, County Executive Steve Bellone said the county will add a second drive-in movie location on the Brentwood campus of Suffolk County Community College. Suffolk has been hosting a drive-in movie series at Smith Point County Park in Shirley.

However, both counties continued to watch their COVID-19 numbers.

Curran said that in Nassau, three patients were on ventilators due to COVID-19, with 61 hospitalized and 11 in intensive care units.

Bellone said the rate of positive coronavirus tests remains under 1% as the region prepares for its fourth phase reopening under state guidelines, which would include the return of its higher education institutions and arts and entertainment venues considered low-risk, as well as professional sports competitions with no fans.

“We are moving toward Phase 4, which is the final phase,” Bellone said.

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