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CDC says 3 feet is enough distance in schools 

New CDC school guidance allows desks to be closer

The revised COVID-19 recommendations represent a turn from the 6-foot standard that has forced some schools to remove desks, stagger scheduling and take other steps to keep children away from one another.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the revised recommendations are an "evidence-based road map to help schools reopen safely, and remain open, for in-person instruction."

In recent months, schools in some states have been disregarding the CDC guidelines, using 3 feet as their standard. Studies of what happened in some of them helped sway the agency, said Greta Massetti, who leads the CDC's community interventions task force.

Long Island school leaders had said they were waiting for the state to update reopening guidelines before considering changes to COVID-19 distancing protocols.

NY's COVID-19 rate isn't dropping below 3%. Here's why.

The steadily increasing number of New Yorkers getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is preventing the state’s coronavirus infection rate from rising significantly, but the continued spread of the virus among unvaccinated people is preventing it from falling, experts say.

"It’s just a matter of time" before the positivity rate falls, said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center. "Each week that more and more people get vaccinated, that should influence the overall curve."

The state rate of positive coronavirus tests was falling for weeks after reaching a seven-day average of 7.9% on Jan. 4 following weeks of holiday gatherings — but then remained stuck between 3.1% and 3.2% since late February before beginning to slowly climb again on Sunday. It was at 3.28% on Wednesday.

The 12% of state residents who are fully vaccinated is keeping the positivity rate from increasing further, and it masks the rising risk for those who are not vaccinated, Farber said.

"There are more contagious variants that are continuing to spread, making those who are unvaccinated at higher risk for infection, in addition to which society is loosening up significantly," he said, referring to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s recent moves to lift restrictions on some types of gatherings and increase maximum capacity at restaurants and events.

The number of new positives reported today: 702 in Nassau, 711 in Suffolk, 4,569 in New York City and 8,262 statewide.

The chart below shows what percentage of coronavirus tests were positive for the virus on average each day over a seven-day period.

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

New York's vaccine supply. The state is set to receive a 33% increase in its vaccine distribution, which could rapidly escalate its time frame for inoculating all New Yorkers, Senate Majority Chuck Schumer and the White House’s COVID vaccine coordinator announced Friday.

The state will receive on average 1.65 million weekly doses of the vaccine by the end of April — a third more than it has previously gotten and 3.5 times the amount from Jan. 20, when President Joe Biden took office.

The additional number of people who will be able to get the shot, Schumer said, would fill Yankee Stadium to capacity.

Hugging machine brings kindergartner, ailing teacher together

Hugs make everything better.

Avery Green knows that, and he’s only 5. His kindergarten teacher, Keri Stromski, knows it too. And, in this time of COVID-19, not being able to envelop her little charges in her arms is especially difficult.

For Stromski, 48, the lack of physical contact with her students comes at a time when she is battling stage four breast cancer.

"A hug is just everything," she said during a Zoom interview with Newsday. "A hug is love, a hug is support, a hug is joy, a hug is healing, a hug is connection."

Avery said Stromski blows kisses to him and the other kindergartners during virtual school in Riverhead. But he was inspired to build a contraption, with help from his mom, using a coat rack and clear plastic bags, to make hugs happen for his favorite teacher.

Where are they now?

It took less than 20 days for COVID-19 to deflate the economy. A year later, Long Islanders are still trying to catch their breath.

Newsday reconnected with Long Islanders we spoke with during the early days of the pandemic. One year in, a Lindenhurst woman is thrilled to start a new job, while an Oceanside resident worries nobody will hire her at age 90. Others are recovering from health emergencies, starting families and cherishing neighbors who stepped up when times were tough.

Here are their stories.

More to know

The United States is weeks head of schedule in hitting the goal President Joe Biden set of injecting 100 million coronavirus vaccinations by his first 100 days in office, so the White House said the nation can help supply neighbors Canada and Mexico with millions of shots.

The Islanders’ game in Boston on Tuesday has been postponed as the Bruins now have multiple players on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list, the league announced on Friday.

The scientist behind the Pfizer vaccine, who won the race to deliver the first widely used coronavirus vaccine, says the technology behind it will soon be used to fight another global scourge — cancer.

One of the first novels about the pandemic will be a collaborative effort, with Margaret Atwood, John Grisham and Celeste Ng among the writers.

News for you

Easter takeout, dine-in specials. Whether you prefer to celebrate at home or are ready to dine out, these local restaurants are offering Easter brunch and dinner specials with takeout and delivery options. The choices suit a range of tastes and budgets.

Silver lining of remote schooling: For parents and students who have struggled through remote instruction this year, some good news: Live online help for students at home during nontraditional school hours might be a legacy of the pandemic-forced switch to virtual schooling. That was the prediction of one local schools superintendent who spoke during the latest Newsday-hosted webinar. Read more and watch the replay.

No weekend plans? If you're still not sure how you'll spend your Saturday or Sunday, you might want to sign up for a virtual Barre Fitness class or take part in Long Island Winterfest, a celebration of the arts, culture and family life. Find details about these and other events in our guide.

Pandemic poetry. The past year has left many feeling isolated and emotional. If you're among those people, you may find comfort in these poems that a pair of Long Island high schoolers are creating, compiling and sharing on Instagram.

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High demand

Newsday’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Matt Davies on the pandemic, then and now, on Long Island. See more of his work.