This story was reported by Alfonso A. Castillo, Matthew Chayes and Bart Jones. It was written by Jones.
New York's state of emergency declared at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is ending, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday, as the state moves into a new phase of confronting the deadly virus.
Cuomo said the state of emergency he issued in March 2020 as the pandemic began to take hold in New York will end Thursday and not be renewed.
"The emergency is over," Cuomo said during a news briefing, citing the state's plateauing positivity rate of under 0.50%.
He said the state has progressed so much in its fight against the virus that he was not discussing the daily COVID-19 indicators on Wednesday as he normally does at his news conferences.
"We know where we are. We are past the day-to-day monitoring of COVID," he said. "We have reached a new plateau, a plateau that should give us all confidence."
What to know
- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state of emergency he issued in March 2020 as the pandemic began to take hold in New York will end Thursday.
- The Suffolk County Department of Health Services will supply the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to local medical providers to give to patients at their offices, County Executive Steve Bellone said.
- An "Essential Workers Monument” will be erected in Battery City Park in lower Manhattan, with an unveiling around Labor Day, Cuomo said.
But he added that the threat remains, with new variants of the virus posing a particular danger.
"It’s not that we believe COVID is gone," Cuomo said. "We still have to vaccinate people, especially young people. That is still a priority."
Some U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines remain in effect, he said, such as the requirement that people wear masks on mass transit, in health care centers, and indoors in schools.
As the state struggles to get more people vaccinated, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services will begin supplying the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to local medical providers to give to patients at their offices, County Executive Steve Bellone said Wednesday.
Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott said that "as the number of people coming to our large vaccination points of dispensing have dwindled, we must now look to vaccinate those residents who are hesitant but may trust their medical provider to give them their COVID vaccines."
While most health care practices don’t have the capacity to store the large trays of vaccine that manufacturers have been delivering to larger entities such as hospitals and pharmacies, they will now be able to accept smaller quantities from Suffolk County, Bellone said.
"As we continue to gain freedom from this unpredictable disease, we encourage health care practitioners to reach out to us and their patients to ensure that we are finally able to reach herd immunity to beat this virus once and for all," he said.
Cuomo said that since the state created a raffle where young people ages 12 to 17 who get a vaccination shot can win a full four-year scholarship to any state or city college where they are accepted, about 145,000 people in that age group have received shots.
The latest 10 weekly winners included two from Suffolk: Tejveer Singh and Isabella Weber, he said. It was the fourth round of winners in the five-week program.
NYC expands homebound vaccination efforts
In another effort, New York City government will deliver and administer the shot to anyone who wants it at home, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
Under an existing in-home program targeted to homebound people, about 15,000 New York City residents got the vaccine administered at their homes.
"For folks who are ready, have not yet been vaccinated, but for whom it’s been a challenge to get to a vaccination site or they haven’t been sure, that vaccine, that lifesaving vaccine, is now available right at your doorstep," de Blasio said.
Nassau and Suffolk, where the rate is also declining, have no plans to follow suit and expand their existing in-home programs.
Derek Poppe, a spokesman for Bellone, said the county also has a homebound program and those who are homebound can call 311 to schedule a shot. He said the county doesn’t have plans to expand the in-home program to all who want it.
Jordan Carmon, a spokesman for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, said that county has a program focused on seniors and homebound people but has no plans to expand it to everyone.
Record ridership and child care assistance boost
As another sign of the region’s gradual return to normalcy, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it set pandemic ridership records on three consecutive days last week.
On Friday, the Long Island Rail Road carried 122,000 riders — around 43% of pre-pandemic levels. New York City subways carried 2.7 million on Friday, about 46% of the 2019 norm.
MTA chairman Patrick Foye noted that the ridership rebound has been especially pronounced on weekend LIRR trains. On Sunday, they carried 77,000 people — about 82% of pre-pandemic levels.
The state, meanwhile, is starting a new program to provide a total of $25 million in child care scholarships to essential workers, Cuomo said.
Child care costs for children between six weeks and 12 years old will be covered for essential staff with an income of less than 300% of the federal poverty level, or $79,500 for a family of four, the governor said.
Monument planned for essential workers
Cuomo also announced that an "Essential Workers Monument" will be erected in Battery City Park in lower Manhattan, with an unveiling around Labor Day.
The monument will be in the form of a circle, with 19 red maple trees around the outside and a circular walking path inside.
Each maple tree in the "Circle of Heroes" will symbolize one category of essential worker, including doctors, nurses, police and firefighters.
An eternal flame will burn in the center of the monument as a symbol of New Yorkers’ gratitude.
While Cuomo did not discuss the latest virus indicators at his news conference, his office later released them. As they have for weeks, they showed a virus in retreat, though not extinguished.
The seven-day average for positive test results was 0.36% statewide, 0.38% on Long Island, and 0.35% in New York City.
The number of new confirmed cases from Tuesday was 16 in Nassau, 24 in Suffolk and 178 in New York City. The total for the entire state was 310.
Across the state, six people died on Tuesday of causes linked to the virus. None of the fatalities were on Long Island.
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