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'We must celebrate smart'

Cuomo: 'Celebrate smart' during holidays as cases rise

Officials are warning a post-holiday surge could be looming if people don’t follow precautions.

"We have nine days left in the holiday season and today, 299 days into the COVID crisis, it is more important than ever for New Yorkers to stay Smart and Tough," Cuomo said in a statement.

"The holiday season is normally a time for celebration, but this year is different — we must celebrate smart, and not allow COVID to be the Grinch that results in increased viral spread as a result of the holidays," Cuomo said.

The state recorded 129 additional deaths from coronavirus-related causes on Wednesday. Eight of the deaths were people in Nassau County and 15 were people in Suffolk County. Close to 7,000 people were hospitalized in the state with COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Vaccinations of health care workers, nursing home workers and patients as well as EMTs and other front line workers are continuing. Cuomo said more than 89,000 people in the state received the vaccine as of Wednesday.

Plus: "The holiday blues" now coincide with the pandemic, worrying mental health practitioners. Health experts have some suggestions for how to cope, and resources to get help.

The number of new positives reported today: 1,020 in Nassau, 1,330 in Suffolk, 4,662 in New York City and 12,568 statewide.

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The chart below shows the positivity rate in New York City and in the state on recent days.

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

GOP blocks $2,000 checks, Trump leaves aid in chaos

President Donald Trump’s sudden demand for $2,000 checks for most Americans was swiftly rejected by House Republicans on Thursday as his haphazard actions threw a massive COVID relief and government funding bill into chaos.

The rare Christmas Eve session of the House lasted just minutes, with help for millions of Americans awaiting Trump's signature on the bill. Unemployment benefits, eviction protections and other emergency aid, including smaller $600 checks, are at risk.

Trump’s refusal of the $900 billion package, which is linked to $1.4 trillion government funds bill, could spark a federal shutdown at midnight Monday.

Pandemic Christmas means some services in the parking lot

Holding true to their faith and the meaning of Christmas, churches across Long Island are improvising to ensure worshippers don't miss the impact of how they traditionally celebrate the birth of Christ.

Ever since COVID-19 arrived in force last spring, religious leaders have developed both outdoor and indoor options, allowing parishioners to worship without interruption. Church leaders are also intent on making sure there's room for all on Christmas Eve, despite COVID-19 barriers.

Some are offering services online, in-person though spread-out, or in public areas, from beachside parks to parking lots.

Prudence Heston, elder at Mattituck Presbyterian Church, said Christmas is "one of our biggest holidays … and you don’t really want to congregate."

Families feel 'empty' coping with losing loved ones to virus

Eight months after her husband died of COVID-19, Rosa Marion said she has more good days than bad. This particular day, last Friday, however, was a bad one.

"I feel empty, I feel lost, I'm alone. The nights, I haven't been able to sleep well," said Marion, 69, of Central Islip, her voice mixing with soft sobs. "Some days I don't want to get out of bed."

Long Island had lost 4,557 people to COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Many more are living with the loss of a loved one.

For them, this is a holiday season haunted by sorrow. Many couldn't be with their beloved in the final days. Funerals, if they were held at all, were often virtual, leaving family to watch on their phones. A vital part of the healing — gathering with loved ones — has been hampered by virus restrictions.

"The pandemic has impacted the way we grieve," said Dr. Grace LaTorre, director of palliative care at Stony Brook Medicine. "It's putting people at risk of 'complicated grief,' [in which] people can get stuck and are not able to move forward."

Here are a few of those survivors' stories.

More to know

A new Long Island University poll shows seven out of 10 Americans plan on getting the vaccine. See more findings.

At the Suffolk County jail in Riverhead, 11 inmates and 43 staff members have recently tested positive for the virus, Sheriff Errol Toulon said Wednesday.

Fees that Nassau restaurants pay to third-party food delivery companies would be capped to 15% of the total order, under a bill filed in the Nassau County Legislature, a cap that seeks to stem pandemic losses for local restaurants.

Nassau legislators unanimously approved a measure allowing seniors and people with disabilities to continue receiving property tax exemptions through 2021-22 without the in-person renewal requirement, to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Long Island's jobless rate fell to 5.4% in November, almost a full percentage point lower than the prior month, according to preliminary state data.

New Mets owner Steve Cohen predicted on Wednesday that fans will be able to return to Citi Field at some point next year.

News for you

Planning your weekend already? Here's a list of socially-distant events happening this weekend, in the new year or that are ongoing throughout the season that you can join virtually or from a safe distance.

Navigating holiday returns safely. After this holiday season comes and goes, what if you need to make some holiday returns? No one wants to be in a crowd or wait on a line, but there might be some ways around that. We've got 7 tips to navigate the hassle of returns.

Staying at home, ordering groceries. We've got an updated list of nine apps and websites that will deliver groceries, household essentials, health supplements, baby and pet care items to your home.

Taxes will be like no other this year. It’s that time of year to start thinking about taxes — but the filing season is going to be a bit trickier, due to unemployment, working from home and general upheaval from COVID-19. Here are a few pandemic-specific conditions — good and bad — to be aware of.

Plus: A last-minute holiday recipe for a chocolate hazelnut crepe cake, a dessert the whole family can build — and eat — together.

Sign up for text messages to get the most important coronavirus news and information.

Watch this video from Newsday's Faith Jessie and David Olson that gives an in-depth look at the current coronavirus surge.

Commentary

What it's like to be the first vaccinated on LI (and the U.S.). Sandra Lindsay, director of nursing for critical care at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, received the shot heard around the world in December.

The Port Washington nurse spoke to Newsday Opinion for Episode 38 of the "Life Under Coronavirus" podcast about her newfound celebrity, her expectations for the second shot, and the challenges ahead while the world gets vaccinated.

See more episodes here.

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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