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COVID-19 variant not in NY, Cuomo says

Cuomo: UK variant not found in NY after thousands of tests

The specimens examined for the mutated virus included more than 350 samples collected over the last week to see if the state needed to take steps to counter the new variant from gaining a foothold, Cuomo said.

That news comes after a Colorado National Guard member was reported to have the first U.S. case of the variant, and a second case is suspected in another Guard member, health officials said.

"It's probably in the United States. We haven't found it in New York," Cuomo said.

Cuomo also announced Wednesday that the state will go ahead with a pilot program and open the Buffalo Bills stadium for their playoff game. The plan allows about 6,700 people to attend with testing, mask-wearing, social distancing and contact-tracing requirements in place.

Every fan will be tested before the game and will have to show a negative result to attend, state officials said.

The governor said it would be a model to allow the return of mass gatherings and reopen the economy while vaccination efforts continue.

"We believe we are the first state in the nation to run this kind of pilot. We think it can be very instructive to us going forward," Cuomo said.

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The chart below shows the positivity rate on Long Island in recent days.

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

Vaccinations for NYPD cops delayed, but city firefighters start

NYPD cops expecting to be offered COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday were told they have to wait a bit longer, but officials began inoculating city firefighters.

NYPD union officials said they expected to have vaccinations offered to cops Tuesday and Wednesday, but was canceled by the department. No firm future date has been set, a department spokesman said.

Instead, hundreds of members of the FDNY began receiving the vaccine at department headquarters in Brooklyn, Randalls Island and Fort Totten, said Andrew Ansbro, head of the FDNY-Firefighters Association.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said after front-line health care workers and nursing home residents received the shots, he wanted first responders vaccinated as soon as possible. He added that he was waiting for state guidance before police officers began receiving vaccinations.

Some HS winter sports can begin practice next week

Long Island's winter high school sports season is scheduled to begin Monday when low- and moderate-risk sports — boys and girls bowling, boys swimming, boys and girls fencing, girls gymnastics and boys and girls winter track — are allowed to begin practicing based on the state's return-to-play guidelines.

High-risk winter sports — boys and girls basketball, wrestling and cheerleading — remain indefinitely postponed by the state. High-risk sports cannot begin until Cuomo issues guidelines for those sports to resume. Calls to the governor's office for comment were not returned.

"We can’t wait to get going and get some sort of semblance to make high school sports relevant again," said Tom Combs, the executive director for Section XI, which governs Suffolk’s interscholastic sports. "Our schedules are out. We also gave the schools the flexibility to play contests on Sundays if weather causes any disruption."

Becoming a first-time parent in a pandemic

The pregnancy and childbirth book that first-time mom Courtney Rogener really needed when she got pregnant this year hasn’t been written: "What to Expect When You’re Expecting … During a Pandemic."

If the East Northport first-grade teacher had found such a guide, it might have offered this kind of advice for Long Islanders: how to regain your composure after bursting into tears because the baby's father had to stay in the car during a milestone sonogram and couldn’t hear the heartbeat; how to explain to extended family and friends they can't hold your newborn; how to stay calm when your 2-month-old tests positive for COVID-19.

"It’s difficult for moms to be pregnant during the pandemic because they are not able to have that village of support that they may have had in prior times," says Jacqueline Aiello, 34, of Lindenhurst, co-founder of a Farmingdale wellness center for expecting and new parents called The Nesting Place.

What other topics do new parents wish they knew during this era? Here's more on what to expect when you're expecting — during a pandemic.

More to know

New Year's Eve in Times Square will be emptier than usual, and NYPD chief of department Terence Monahan spelled out the holiday's security measures on Wednesday while urging people to stay away.

Unemployed New Yorkers will begin getting an extra $300 and extended federal benefits next week, Cuomo said Tuesday.

A federal appeals court ruled that Cuomo's order limiting attendance at churches and synagogues in pandemic hot spots "discriminates against religion on its face."

Luke Letlow, Louisiana's newest Republican member of the U.S. House, died Tuesday night at age 41 from COVID-19 complications, days before being sworn into office.

Jets’ rookie running back La’Mical Perine tested positive for COVID-19, Adam Gase said.

President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration for the pace of distributing the vaccines, and predicted that "things will get worse before they get better" when it comes to the pandemic.

News for you

Opt for takeout on NYE. Many restaurants on Long Island are putting together takeout packages that will allow you to ring in 2021 with a good meal at home. We've got a list of restaurants offering takeout packages for food and drinks this New Year's Eve.

Avoiding vaccine scammers. The state says scammers are sending phony emails and texts with links that aim to steal personal information, pretending to sell the vaccine and making robocalls. There are ways to avoid them, like never clicking a link from an unknown source.

Your updated list of upcoming events. We've got an updated schedule of upcoming virtual or socially distant events to attend this week, including New Year's events and a polar plunge.

Plus, for businesses: Experts say companies should look at their goals in shorter intervals for 2021, and be prepared to pivot. Read more.

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Commentary

Just send the bigger checks already. Conor Sen, of Bloomberg Opinion, writes: Let's get down to brass tacks: Sending $2,000 in direct payments to Americans is a politically effective but economically inefficient way to provide needed relief to workers and families.

When Congress recently approved a new stimulus package, it included $600 cash payments to Americans. But that struck many people as a measly gesture compared to the $1,200 checks issued in the previous stimulus, and considering the economic damage done by the pandemic over the nine months since the Cares Act. So when President Donald Trump called for $2,000 checks, Democrats immediately jumped on board and some Republicans followed.

The new $2,000 amount was approved in the House on Monday, though a vote in the Senate Tuesday was blocked by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The proposal is still very much alive, garnering support from both GOP Senate incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who face a runoff election on Jan. 5 in Georgia. Given the controversy, it's worth asking how much the larger amount will actually help the economy.

I'll start with the positives. Most of the unemployment benefits passed in the Cares Act expired at the end of July, and because of archaic unemployment systems in states, many eligible workers never got them. These individuals have gone months wondering if or when more fiscal relief would come, and when we'll get the kind of economic reopening that will bring back millions of jobs in industries like travel and dining. The fiscal relief package just passed by Congress will reinstate those unemployment benefits for a while, but at a reduced level. For everyone that falls into these buckets, an additional $1,400 payment is an efficient way to provide additional relief without relying on state unemployment systems to process claims on time, and to make up for Congress letting relief lapse over the summer. Keep reading.

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