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Testing for the COVID-19 variant

Cuomo: Asking NY hospitals, labs to test for UK variant

While detecting the new variant of the virus would involve "a complex test," Cuomo told reporters during a conference call that labs in New York — including those of Northwell Health on Long Island — are up to the challenge.

The state will be providing them the testing reagents needed to look for the variant. Concerns over the mutated virus strain led to a widespread lockdown in the U.K. and Cuomo calling on airlines to screen passengers for COVID-19 before they board planes for New York.

"This is about time and urgency," he said. "That’s why we are mobilizing every hospital lab in the state that can perform this test to perform this test."

While there's no evidence the variant is in the state, that doesn't mean it isn't already here, Cuomo said.

"We do know it has been moving globally," he said. "Chances are if it has been moving globally it came here. If it is here, I want to know exactly where it is and contact-trace immediately from that point back and then isolate it immediately."

Researchers in the U.K. are still studying the new variant. So far, it appears to spread more quickly but may not be a more severe form of the disease.

Plus: There are many questions about the new strain, like how it's different and whether the vaccine can protect against it. We have answers.

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The number of new positives reported today: 880 in Nassau, 1,034 in Suffolk, 3,456 in New York City and 9,716 statewide.

The map below shows the concentration of cases on Long Island in recent days.

Search the map of new cases, and view charts showing the latest local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

$900B COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress

Congress passed a $900 billion pandemic relief package Monday night that would finally deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and resources to vaccinate the nation. The bill goes to President Donald Trump for his signature, which is expected in the coming days.

It combines coronavirus-fighting funds with financial relief for individuals and businesses. It would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theaters as well as money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.

See what's in the package for New Yorkers.

Small businesses and nonprofits would receive a total of $20 billion in economic disaster grants to help them survive. The grants would be up to $10,000 per applicant based on the number of employees, according to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who helped negotiate the stimulus legislation.

Schools found ways for holiday shows to go on during pandemic

Big school winter concerts, traveling Christmas carolers and the holiday assemblies are on hold this season — but not even a pandemic can stop the music.

School districts across Long Island have been delivering performances in ways no one could have imagined a year ago. Digital tools allow music and drama teachers to bypass human contact to achieve a touch of normalcy, they say.

"My biggest take-away is, where there’s a will, there’s a way," said Sameerah Cassidy, a music teacher at Wantagh High School, whose students performed, recorded and edited a video of holiday songs. It would be viewed in 23 local nursing homes and assisted living facilities. No in-person caroling was allowed.

Music and arts departments assembled concert videos by separately recording small groups of masked singers and socially distanced musicians, and of students performing at home. They use digital platforms to meet, rehearse, record and edit. And, they’ve found new ways to deliver the performances, from a livestreamed radio broadcast of "It’s a Wonderful Life" to a taped concert video viewed drive-in style in a high school parking lot.

Looking back at Long Islanders' acts of kindness

A local halal group purchased 5,000 pounds of rice for communities in need. Latina mothers showed up at a Wyandanch COVID-19 testing site to help those who needed Spanish translations of important medical information. Educators donated technology to children in Brentwood and Central Islip for remote learning.

These are some of the Long Islanders who lent a helping hand during the height of this year's anxiety and uncertainty. The stories were different, but compassion was always their common thread.

In ways large and small during the pandemic, Long Islanders looked out for each other, and Newsday was there to capture it in its series LI Acts of Kindness. Take a look back at some of those stories.

More to know

Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, said Tuesday she plans to retire but is willing to first help President-elect Joe Biden’s team with its coronavirus response as needed.

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday received his first dose of the vaccine on live television.

This is the deadliest year in U.S. history, with deaths expected to top 3 million for the first time — due mainly to the pandemic.

The Nets announced plans to honor essential workers at the regular-season opener against Golden State on Tuesday night at Barclays Center.

Investigator Sgt. Keith Allison of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office died on Thursday at age 52 of COVID-19 complications, according to the sheriff's office.

News for you

Spreading holiday cheer from their cars. Some Long Islanders have been spreading cheer on the road, traveling throughout Nassau and Suffolk with their cars covered in lights. Take a look and watch a video.

Getting your finances in order for 2021. After this pandemic year, it's time to get ready for a new one. The pandemic turned almost everything upside down, and it might be time to rethink your finances. Try these money-savvy ideas for the new year.

Chess has its comeback. An uptick in interest in the game of chess started with the pandemic — when people were stuck at home looking for things to do. Then came the Netflix series "The Queen's Gambit." See how it's been gaining popularity.

A strong season for Christmas tree farms. Family-run farms on the North Fork are reporting their lots and fields were picked clean of the good trees earlier than ever this year. That might have to do with an influx of residents on the East End, families spending holidays apart and people desperate for some holiday cheer this year.

Plus, next on the Newsday Live Author Series: Join us at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday for a discussion and Q&A with bestselling author TaraShea Nesbit about her latest historical novel "Beheld," her career and more. Save your spot.

Sign up for text messages for the most important coronavirus news and information delivered to your phone.


A new front in the war against COVID-19. A Newsday editorial writes: Not only haven’t we beaten the coronavirus, we may be waging war on new battlegrounds.

The news that a different strain of the COVID-19 virus — one that’s potentially more contagious — seems to be spreading through the United Kingdom should worry health officials around the world, including in the United States.

The new strain comes as hope has begun to take root — in the form of vaccines — as President-elect Joe Biden was inoculated Monday and, closer to home, as nursing home residents and staff become the latest Long Islanders to receive the vaccine.

But the virus mutation shows there isn’t yet a clear path out of the pandemic, and with hope may come new fears.

There’s a lot we don’t know about the new variant. We don’t know whether the vaccines will work as well against it — though health officials seem to think they will. We don’t know whether it’s more lethal — though health officials seem to think it isn’t. And we don’t know whether it is indeed more contagious — though there’s reason to think it is. It will be a while before researchers can fully understand it and how to deal with it.

What we do know is that traveling from the United Kingdom to the United States right now can only make a bad situation worse. So, it’s not time to play guessing or waiting games in our response to what could be a frightening virus mutation.

The federal government should shut down travel between the United Kingdom and the United States. Keep reading.

A note to our community:

As a public service, this article is available for all. Newsday readers support our strong local journalism by subscribing.  Please show you value this important work by becoming a subscriber now.


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