Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday said the state continues to see the COVID-19 numbers go down as the state moves toward Phase 3 in some regions. Credit: NY Governor's Office

This story was reported by Robert Brodsky, Candice Ferrette, Bart Jones and David Reich-Hale. It was written by Jones.

New York State has gone from the worst coronavirus infection rate in the country to the best, reaching “a new high” as it recorded the lowest number of hospitalizations and deaths since the outbreak struck about three months ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday.

As upstate regions prepared to enter the third reopening phase, Cuomo said the state will allow gatherings to increase from 10 to 25 people for areas in that stage.

As of Sunday New York had 1,608 coronavirus patients, the lowest figure since March 20, and a three-day average of 27 deaths, the lowest since March 21.

“Our accomplishment over these past 106 days will go down in the history books,” said Cuomo, speaking at the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in Tarrytown. “We had the worst infection rate in the United States of America. Today we have the best infection rate in the United States of America. You want to talk about a turnaround? You want to talk about an accomplishment? … New York scaled the highest mountain and went from the worst situation with this COVID virus, to the best situation with this COVID virus.”

He announced that the Western New York region is entering Phase 3 on Tuesday, and the Capital Region is doing so on Wednesday. That will allow the return of food service and personal care businesses. They join five other upstate regions in that stage. Long Island and other suburbs remain in Phase 2 while New York City is in Phase 1.

Cuomo to localities: ‘Do your job’

Cuomo said the state has received 25,000 complaints about businesses not observing social distancing and other coronavirus mitigation requirements, and warned local governments to enforce the law or face the possibility of the state pushing back their reopening phase.

“People should follow the guidelines because the guidelines have been working,” he said. “To the local governments, ‘I say, ‘Do your job.’”

He went on: “Local governments are supposed to be enforcing compliance. Compliance is hard. Why? Because people have been cooped up for a long time and they want to do what they want to do … But we have to stay smart. If they don’t enforce compliance you will start to see the numbers go up.”

He noted that 22 states and Puerto Rico are seeing increases in coronavirus cases.

The number of new infections on Long Island for Sunday remained relatively low at 0.9% of people tested, according to state data released Monday. The figure in New York City was 1.3%.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Monday said COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined “every single day” for the last two months, since April 14.

A day after Gov. Cuomo expressed outrage over an alleged breach of social distancing protocols at businesses in the Hamptons and New York City, Newsday went to Southampton Village to check out the scene. Many wore masks, but some didn’t. Here’s the latest from Cecilia Dowd in our daily coronavirus wrap-up video. Credit: Howard Schnapp and James Carbone

The numbers of new confirmed cases of coronavirus had by Sunday approached levels on Long Island close to what they were in the early days of the crisis. Nassau reported 36 new cases in the last 24 hours, while Suffolk reported 33, according to state data released Monday.

The state as a whole reported 620 new cases, with 381 of them in New York City.

The state has now seen a total of 383,944 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 41,240 in Nassau, 40,692 in Suffolk, and 210,259 in New York City.

The daily death toll statewide was 25, far below the height of the pandemic when New York was losing close to 800 people a day to COVID-19.

Cuomo, at his briefing, presided over the opening of a 3.6-mile shared bicycle and pedestrian path on the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, named for his father. He pointed to it as an example of the state accelerating work on public projects to help revitalize the economy.

Northwell Health hospitals in downstate New York have seen a...

Northwell Health hospitals in downstate New York have seen a continued decrease in patients from COVID-19. North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset is one of the Northwell hospitals. Credit: Barry Sloan

Meanwhile, New York State is adding $100 million to an emergency food assistance program to help low-income people get through the pandemic, officials said.

In Nassau, Curran announced a new food distribution site in Long Beach in partnership with Long Island Cares, which operates food banks throughout the Island.

Watching numbers in Suffolk

Suffolk County officials said Monday they continue to see a decline in most major COVID categories. But, three days after reporting no deaths in the county for the first time since the pandemic began, Suffolk reported an uptick of seven deaths on Monday.

“Today’s number can be characterized as a spike because we have seen lower numbers than that over the last couple of weeks,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. “So to jump up to 7 is disappointing.”

Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the county’s Department of Health Services, called the increase a “random variation” of the numbers.

The total deaths in Suffolk reached 1,955, and in Nassau 2,167, according to state data released Monday. New York State as whole has lost 24,579 people to the coronavirus, with 16,058 of them from New York City.

Northwell Health on Monday said it had 357 COVID-19 patients at its hospitals, and that the number has dropped by nearly half since Memorial Day, when it had 680.

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