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NY relaxing visitation rules at nursing homes

Governor to relax visitation rules, still defends nursing home actions

Cuomo said since about 73% of nursing home residents have been vaccinated, the state plans to relax visitation rules at those facilities and — for the second time in a briefing this week — defended the state's actions on the placement of nursing home residents and delayed release of information about their coronavirus-related deaths.

Cuomo did not put a date on when visits will return, but said the New York State Department of Health will be issuing guidance, which will include recommending visitors take rapid tests for COVID-19 before entering the facilities.

The Cuomo administration finds itself in the midst of a firestorm over the placement of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 back in nursing homes at the height of the pandemic and, most recently, about revelations that it delayed the release of information to the State Legislature about deaths affecting that elderly population.

While Cuomo has accepted his administration created "a void" of information concerning nursing home deaths, he and his health commissioner maintained the state made the right decisions about placing nursing home residents in those facilities.

He also said Friday that a request for information from the U.S. Department of Justice took precedence over state lawmakers' inquiry at the center of the controversy.

Cuomo, instead, blamed himself for not pushing back harder on what he characterized as political attacks.

NY increasing testing, vaccine efforts to 'calibrate reopening'

New York made more moves toward reopening its economy Friday, announcing stepped-up testing efforts, expanded capacity for New York City restaurants and added vaccination sites across the state, among other measures.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccination sites run by Nassau and Suffolk counties were largely shut down on Friday because of bad weather or lack of supplies, officials said, although the state plans to keep its vaccination centers open.

Still trying to book an appointment? These resources might help.

The number of new positives reported today: 729 in Nassau, 714 in Suffolk, 4,872 in New York City and 8,710 statewide.

The chart below shows the percentage of Long Islanders who have been partially or fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Search a map of new cases and view more charts showing the latest on vaccinations, testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

Efforts to strip Cuomo of pandemic powers gain steam

A move to curb Gov. Cuomo’s pandemic powers gained momentum following his public fight with an Assembly member and a Senate vow to take a vote on the issue next week, some legislators and officials said Thursday.

The Senate, which has been more vocal about taking back emergency powers the governor was granted last year, was drafting a bill to establish a bipartisan panel with the power to disapprove any Cuomo proposals. It planned to vote on the measure Monday or Tuesday.

The Assembly had been more hesitant to criticize the governor’s use of emergency powers to suspend or create laws to deal with the pandemic.

But the "playing field shifted" after Cuomo clashed with Assemb. Ron Kim (D-Flushing) on Wednesday. And now the Democrats who control the chamber moved up their usual Monday afternoon conference call by three hours, presumably to talk about the issue, members said.

"The Kim thing has outraged many members," one legislator said.

A lover of trains, at work and at home, dies

Frank Field Jr. retired years ago as a mechanical engineer with the Long Island Rail Road but a peek at his Greenport backyard gave passersby a clue that while his time at the LIRR had ended, his love of trains remained.

For decades, Field entertained train lovers of all ages — and occasionally jolted his then-teenage children from sleep — with the Peconic County Miniature Rail Road, which he built on his 2.5 acre property and opened to the public to ride in 1985.

"I used to tell people I hated that train in the backyard because he would wake me up Saturday mornings as a teenager. I wanted to sleep in," said Mary Anne Polkiewicz, 60, one of Field's three daughters. "Once I had kids, I really had an appreciation for it — my children loved it. My kids got to drive it. He would take it out just for them."

Field, 88, died Sunday at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital from complications of COVID-19, said Polkiewicz. Read his obituary and the stories of other Long Islanders lost to COVID-19.

More to know

Converting deserted offices and hotels in New York City to affordable apartments could help revive the economy by attracting young workers, Gov. Cuomo said in a taped interview with Long Island real estate developer Scott Rechler.

Leaders of the Group of Seven economic powers promised Friday to immunize the world’s neediest people against the coronavirus by giving money, and precious vaccine doses, to a U.N.-backed vaccine distribution effort.

The number of laid-off workers on Long Island seeking unemployment benefits rose more than 13% last week, even as many other regions in the state saw slight decreases in jobless claims, state data show.

Americans as a whole are now earning the same amount in wages and salaries that they did before the virus struck — even with nearly 9 million fewer people working in a stark sign of the economic inequality that has marked the pandemic recession and recovery.

The Mets' Marcus Stroman, who sat out last season because of coronavirus concerns, is back in the rotation, prompting manager Luis Rojas to call the Medford-raised pitcher's return "huge."

News for you

Winter fun in the Hamptons, Montauk. The South Fork has tons of fun things to do and spots to explore this winter. So pack the car and plan a family day trip, couples retreat or weekend away with friends in the Hamptons and Montauk using our guide.

Time to declutter. Have you been using the extra time at home to declutter your house or maybe you still need to? Well, if you need inspiration, Garden City born-and-bred "Good Morning America" contributor Lara Spencer will help homeowners clear out their cluttered houses and put potential treasures up for auction in this new HGTV series.

Help sticking to your diet. And if you're diet could also use an overhaul these days, you can try these to-go meals from the newest location of Hummus Fit, which are based on calories.

Plus: With spring approaching, the number of vaccinated New Yorkers growing, and some hope for normalcy on the horizon, business owners may be wondering how they can take advantage. In a recent Newsday Live webinar, panelists in marketing and entrepreneurship offered tips for how to make the most of this next chapter of the pandemic.

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The power of audiobooks helped me kick my COVID loneliness. Jeff Vasishta, a writer and music journalist, writes in a recent Newsday Opinion column: Recently divorced, I didn’t anticipate the compounding effect of living apart from my teenage daughters during a pandemic. After exhausting Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, I obsessively watched every English Premier League soccer game available.

Yet the moment my devices were down, loneliness and isolation pooled around me like a rip current.

I’d never been a fan of audiobooks, probably because the ones I had listened to years ago were abridged and sounded like they were recorded by a relative of the author in their bathroom. However, I got turned onto them again last year when the disdain for lighting on my 4:45 a.m. commuter bus made it impossible for me to read a book or Kindle.

I was surprised by the tremendous advances. Novels were not simply read but performed by a stellar cast of seasoned actors in state-of-the-art studios. Now, almost a year into solitary confinement, they have become an obsession. Driving, cooking, and walking have all been accompanied by an audiobook, with a slew of colorful voices fed into my head, pushing my own darker ones out. Continue reading