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NY's positivity rates keep dropping

NY's COVID-19 infection rates decline to levels before holiday surge

The positivity rate from tests on Wednesday was 3.54%, the lowest since Nov. 25 — the day before Thanksgiving, when the figure was 3.2%.

Infection levels went on a steady rise after that, partly fueled by social gatherings throughout the holiday season. But since mid-January, the rates have been steadily dropping — good news for the state even as contagious and dangerous variants of the virus begin to multiply across the nation.

"Across the state, from hospitalizations to infection rate, our numbers are continuing to decline — a sign of hope to all and proof of the dedication New Yorkers have shown to defeating this beast," Cuomo said.

However, Long Island continues to have the highest infection level in the state, something Cuomo has mentioned in his daily briefings. The seven-day average from test results completed on Wednesday tracked at 5.17% for Nassau and Suffolk combined, but was still part of a steady decline in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Statewide, 122 people died on Wednesday of causes related to COVID-19. The number of people hospitalized because of the virus dropped by 251 on Wednesday, to a total of 7,342.

The number of new positives reported today: 919 in Nassau, 828 in Suffolk, 5,193 in New York City and 10,099 statewide.

The chart below shows how many people were hospitalized for the virus in the state over the past month.

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

Vaccine appointments: These resources may help you when trying to make an appointment. Don’t be surprised if many aren’t showing any available appointments — officials advise to keep trying as more doses become available.

Data shows higher total COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes

The Cuomo administration says that the number of residents of nursing homes who died or are presumed to have died from COVID-19 has risen to 13,297 and that the virus was already present in 98% of nursing homes when the state issued its March 25 guidance to accept COVID-positive patients from hospitals.

New data states that from March 1, 2020, to Jan. 19, 2021, 6,218 nursing home residents were confirmed to have died of COVID-19; 2,957 residents were presumed to have died of the virus in nursing homes; and 4,122 residents have died in hospitals while being treated for the virus.

When the number of deaths among persons living in assisted living and other adult care facilities are included, the total is 15,049 by the state’s latest count. Keep reading.

Some businesses suffer when every day is casual Friday

From hair salons to dry cleaners to custom tailors, they're all about keeping professionals looking sharp. But because the pandemic forced millions of professionals to begin working from home, some of those businesses have been suffering because of it.

Employees working from home and meeting via Zoom instead of in offices has translated into record declines in spending at hair and nail salons, barbershops, hair waxing and eyebrow threading shops, dry cleaners, shoe repair shops, tailors and office attire clothing stores.

They're taking big financial hits — and some aren’t able to weather the storm.

"We’ve been doing everything possible just to keep the doors open," said Daniel Kuchlik, owner of American Dry Cleaners, which has two stores, in Hicksville and East Northport. The business’ sales are down 50% because of the pandemic, Kuchlik said.

Rent increases in the NY area lowest in 60 years, data shows

New federal data shows it took the pandemic to slow decades of residential rent increases in the metropolitan area.

Rents for apartments, houses and other primary residences in the 25-county region that includes Long Island rose 0.9% in January compared with a year earlier, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Wednesday. That’s the smallest year-over-year increase since 1958.

The rent slowdown was likely caused by the Manhattan rental market, which has been upended by pandemic-related job losses and residents moving to Long Island and other suburbs, experts said, adding suburban rents have increased.

More to know

Owners of arcades, trampoline parks, laser tag facilities and other indoor amusement centers are suing the state over not being allowed to reopen, calling the continued shutdown "arbitrary, capricious, irrational and abusive."

Nassau County has reopened a grant program for restaurants that are struggling to survive the pandemic this winter, County Executive Laura Curran announced on Wednesday.

The NHL announced that Sunday night’s game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Rangers at the Garden will be postponed, with three Flyers out of action because of COVID-19 protocols.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to 793,000.

News for you

About wearing two masks. On Wednesday, the CDC added doubling up on masks to its latest list of mask recommendations. Here's what you need to know about the new advice.

Celebrating Mardi Gras at home. Mardi Gras is coming up — and you can celebrate the New Orleans tradition with virtual events and traditional cuisine. Check out the virtual concert to watch on Saturday, and the takeout options from local restaurants offering traditional dishes.

For the Oscars this year. Organizers say the upcoming show will keep tradition but will broadcast live from multiple locations on April 25. The announcement comes as many cities that are important film hubs remain under virus restrictions.

Tax assistance goes virtual. Some are doing their taxes from home with the help of a local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which has gone all virtual this year. The VITA program is coordinated through the IRS. Anyone on Long Island or in the tristate area making $57,000 or less can sign up for the program.

Plus: Long Island doctors and athletic directors discussed safety protocols and how that can affect athletes' mental health. Re-watch the webinar here.

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

Commentary

Beating back vaccine fears. A Newsday editorial writes: The fear and uncertainty run deep.

The communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic now are the same ones that are very hesitant or outright resistant to take a COVID-19 vaccine. If those trends persist, particularly among Black and Hispanic individuals, it’s going to be impossible for the nation, the state or the region to reach herd immunity, the level necessary if the pandemic is ever to be overcome. That’s especially true given the mutant strains that have begun to spread.

New York’s latest step, to partner with the federal government in establishing specific sites and vaccine doses for "socially vulnerable" communities, is an important start. Also key, state officials have promised significant outreach to go along with it.

But a just-concluded survey by Siena College for nextLI, a Newsday initiative focused on key policy questions that impact the region, shows just how difficult that endeavor will be. Keep reading.

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