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LI's positivity rates plateau after holiday spike

Virus positivity levels linger above last summer's levels

Positivity levels increased again slightly locally and across New York in results released Tuesday.

The seven-day average statewide was 3.24% in test results from Monday, up from 3.22% and 3.15% the previous two days.

Long Island had the second-highest level of any region in the state, registering 4.53% — also a slight increase from previous days. New York City’s average was 4.21%. The statewide level was 4.14%. Last summer, the level hovered around 1% on Long Island and the state.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said her administration is working to understand why the positivity rate has plateaued.

"One idea that came up is that with more people being tested for high school sports, those young people might have gone undetected and asymptomatic — that could be one of the reasons contributing to that," she said in a COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said widespread vaccinations are the key to ending the pandemic.

The number of new positives reported today: 623 in Nassau, 652 in Suffolk, 3,370 in New York City and 6,508 statewide.

The chart below shows the new virus cases confirmed each day on Long Island, from September to now.

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

Standardized testing returns for grades 3-8, barring federal waivers

State education officials said Monday that they will resume standardized testing in abbreviated form for grades three to eight this spring, assuming they fail in efforts to obtain federal test waivers.

Federally required testing in English and math, canceled last year in the face of the pandemic, will be shortened in length from three days' administration in each subject to one day, state officials said. Thousands of students who opted for remote instruction during the pandemic will be excused from coming to school for state testing.

Roger Tilles of Manhasset, who represents Long Island on the state's Board of Regents, said the single-day sessions of testing in English and math "will be short, likely one hour or one period long."

"Students are overwhelmingly stressed in this COVID year. Anything we can do to reduce the stress we should avail ourselves of," Tilles said.

New service gives commuting home health aides a needed lift

Home health aides' long commutes on public transportation have turned from inconvenient to scary because of the coronavirus.

They may get a break through a new initiative to ferry them in private cars.

The Massapequa-based nonprofit All Things Home Care Inc. has partnered with the Burning Bush Family Foundation in Wheatley Heights to provide about 50 rides to half a dozen aides each week, and they're trying to raise money to expand the service.

"One of the biggest problems that we ran into during COVID-19 was families asking every day, ‘How is it they're getting to my house? … I don’t want them on public transportation,’" where they could be exposed to the virus, said Dana Arnone, who runs the for-profit Reliance Home Senior Services and started All Things Home Care.

Hundreds rally to show support for Asian Americans on LI

Hundreds showed up on Sunday in Mineola to condemn violent attacks among the Asian American community during the pandemic.

The rally held outside the Nassau County Legislative Building drew about 300, many of whom held up signs that said "END VIOLENCE AGAINST ASIANS" and "Justice for Grandpa VICHA," the first name of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man who died in January after being slammed onto the pavement in San Francisco. His death was one of the violent assaults that ignited a national outcry over discrimination and harassment that some Asian Americans say they’ve endured since the pandemic began.

"One year later today, we already have the vaccines for the virus, but the hate and crime against Asian Americans are still running out of control," said Gordon Zhang, President of the Long Island Chinese American Association. In an emotional speech, Zhang noted the history of minorities being "scapegoated" in times of crisis.

"But today, it’s not the 1880s. It’s not the 1940s. We are in the year of 2021," Zhang said. "We can’t have the ugly and painful history repeat itself again."

More to know

Five LI high school football games had their schedules altered because of COVID-19 protocols, with one postponed, another canceled and three moved to Monday.

Long Island’s real estate boom continues, with Suffolk homes selling for a median $475,000 last month — an 18% gain compared with the previous February. In Nassau, the median home price jumped by 14% to $600,000, a new report says.

The Islanders' Jean-Gabriel Pageau will be available to play on Tuesday night after being cleared from the NHL’s daily COVID-19 protocol list, but the team was awaiting word on the status of Noah Dobson.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to delay release of Census 2020 population totals in part because of the pandemic was welcomed by several experts, but some raised concerns about potential undercounting.

News for you

Shakespeare in the Park is coming back. This summer, a year after being suspended from the pandemic, the theater said the season would run from July 6 to Aug. 29 at its Central Park venue and promised a "safe return" with infection-control protocols.

A farmer's market that stays open all year. There will be plenty of chances to visit Garden Farmers Market in Patchogue. It launched in February, and plans to stay open all year long — and it's held on both Saturdays and Sundays. It's open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.

Getting out to a thriving park. Over the past year, New Yorkers really rediscovered parks. Walking, biking and hiking have been popular for those trapped at home when so many venues shut down. Experts say getting outdoors to a park became an escape and helped people ward off negative emotions from COVID-19.

Plus, a Newsday event this week you might be interested in: How can kids whose education has suffered during the pandemic catch up, and what will schools do to help? Join for a virtual discussion on Thursday at 4 p.m. Register here.

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Vaccine passports don't have to work to be effective. Tyler Cowen writes for Bloomberg: As more Americans get vaccinated, there is increasing talk of "vaccine passports." There are strong emotional reactions to this idea, positive and negative, but my attempt at a more analytical view leads me to a conclusion that is not entirely satisfying (even to me): America should work to develop vaccine passports but never actually require them.

First, I am not impressed by the criticisms that vaccine passports will create an unfair two-tier society. COVID-19 already has done that. Not only are the 500,000 dead already in a highly disadvantageous "tier," but the U.S. has been divided between those who can work at home — often higher earners — and those who cannot. If a vaccine passport system can help clean up this mess and accelerate recovery, it is likely to increase fairness on average.

The biggest advantage of vaccine passports is that they would encourage people to get the vaccine. Many people who are indifferent about getting it but want to be able to fly or attend a sporting event would have a strong inducement to hurry up and claim their doses. Getting vaccinated would also boost their health and job prospects, as well as protect others.

So far, so good. What are the problems? Keep reading.