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Cuomo: State's COVID-19 cases stagnant despite vaccine push

Andrea Reimond-nee, of Amityville, gets a COVID-19 shot

Andrea Reimond-nee, of Amityville, gets a COVID-19 shot from nurse Joanne Duran at the mass vaccination site in SUNY Stony Brook Southampton campus on March 19. Credit: John Roca

The struggle to bring down COVID-19 levels continued to stagnate statewide and on Long Island as New York entered the Easter holiday weekend, officials said Friday, even as the number of people vaccinated steadily climbs.

New York State on Friday also began allowing arts and entertainment venues to reopen with limited capacity, after having been closed for more than a year, while officials looked forward to opening eligibility for shots to everyone 16 and older starting Tuesday.

The capacity cap in the entertainment venues is 33% of normal, with up to 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors. If all attendees show proof of a negative coronavirus test before entry, the cap rises to 150 indoors and 500 outdoors. Social distancing and other precautions are required.

Meanwhile, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone tweeted Friday that more than 470,000 Suffolk residents had received at least one vaccine dose as of Thursday. That represents nearly 32% of the county’s population of about 1.5 million.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday the state broke its record again by administering 269,527 doses in the past 24 hours, and was closing in on a total of 10 million shots injected since December.

Despite the boost in vaccinations, the Easter holiday will bring some risk in spreading COVID-19, doctors said Friday.

"We have to take the emotional needs of people, including going to church and seeing family, with the medical needs of the community," said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children's Hospital.

Nachman said small gatherings of 10 or fewer people who were vaccinated and showing no signs of being sick were safer.

"I'd certainly screen to make sure everyone feels all right, and if children are coming, make sure there are no signs of symptoms and that they haven't been in contact with anyone who has developed COVID," Nachman said.

A church service was safer if people wore masks, socially distanced and had been vaccinated, she said.

"Some churches might hold abridged services too," she said.

Dr. Bruce Polsky, chairman of medicine at NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island and an infectious disease specialist, said, "We have experience with holiday gatherings and know what can happen, but we are also in a much better place because of vaccine coverage."

Polsky said people who were fully vaccinated should feel comfortable gathering in small groups.

Meanwhile, the statewide seven-day average of positivity in test results for the virus Thursday was 3.59%, an increase from 3.58% and 3.47% the previous two days, Cuomo said.

The seven-day average on Long Island, which has among the highest levels in the state, was 4.52%, according to state data. That was an increase from 4.39% and 4.38% the previous two days.

"Vaccinations for COVID-19 are progressing as fast as we can get shots in arms, and while that's good news, the pandemic isn't over and New Yorkers have to stay vigilant," Cuomo said.

The daily statewide level of positivity from test results Thursday was 3.02%.

Statewide and on Long Island, the level was about 1% throughout the summer.

The number of new confirmed cases in test results Thursday was 638 in Nassau County, 706 in Suffolk County, and 3,794 in New York City.

In the summer, Nassau and Suffolk each had well below 100 cases a day.

Statewide, 63 people died of COVID-19-related causes on Thursday, including two each in Nassau and Suffolk.

Doctor concerned about Easter gatherings

Dr. Adam Berman, associate chairman of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, said he was concerned about gatherings for Easter and for Passover, which ends Sunday, because of the continued spread of the coronavirus.

"If you are unvaccinated, it might be smart to stay home," he said.

For those who go to gatherings, Berman said: "Try to be outdoors and socially distant, wear your masks, wash your hands. Be really smart, the way you were during the pandemic before the vaccine."

Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health in New Jersey, said that, ideally, fully vaccinated people would gather only with other fully vaccinated people.

For both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, there is some risk going to Easter church services, Halkitis said.

"In a church, you ought to be distant as much as possible from people, and wear a mask, and still go and do your religious service, because I think people need that," he said. "There’s something to be said about the role of spirituality in people’s lives in building resilience."

Cuomo announced Friday that the state will open 18 new temporary pop-up vaccination sites over the next week, including three on Long Island. One was at the Unkechaug Nation located on the Poospatuck reservation in Mastic on Friday afternoon.

The sites are expected to vaccinate 8,500 people, and will be reestablished in three weeks to administer the second shot.

The other Island sites include the Patchogue YMCA on April 6 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and April 8 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Temple Beth El of Great Neck will operate April 6 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On Thursday, Cuomo announced that New York had administered 1.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the last seven days, a record since the state began inoculating people in December.

Nassau County marked its own milestone, as County Executive Laura Curran said 500,000 residents had received their first COVID-19 shot.

With Matthew Chayes, David Olson and David Reich-Hale

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