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NY relaxing rules to allow spectators at Belmont

Cuomo: NY to allow spectators at Belmont, other racetracks

The state will allow horse and auto racing starting April 23, with capacity at racetracks limited at 20% for outdoor events, "in line with our guidance for other events," he said.

"At the same time, we caution New Yorkers, don’t get cocky, the disease is still very much with us," Cuomo said. You see it escalating in some states, you see it escalating in some countries, so we need to stay smart until it is crushed" and herd immunity is reached through widespread vaccinations.

Earlier in the day, Cuomo visited the Belmont Park site for the new Islanders arena, announcing Northwell Health will vaccinate construction workers building the venue.

ICYMI: The federal government recommended a "pause" on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, following reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. Newsday's Faith Jessie spoke with an expert to break down what that all means in this video.

Data: New variants more than 70% of NYC cases

Coronavirus variants — including the more infectious kind first detected in the United Kingdom — are now believed to represent more than 70% of cases in New York City, according to a municipal government data analysis.

It hypothesizes the variants, despite an increase in vaccinated New Yorkers, are to blame for the failure of the infection rate to decline in the city.

"This suggests the spread of specific variants, potentially due to their greater infectiousness, which is one reason why COVID-19 cases in NYC remain at a high plateau of between 3,000 to 4,000 new cases each day," the report said.

Celebrating a pandemic birthday for the second time

Sacrificing a birthday party once during the pandemic was disappointing. But for kids whose birthdays fall in March, April, May — and maybe beyond — this is their second year they might need a muted affair.

Some families are finding creative ways to move beyond car parades and Zoom gatherings that marked so many birthdays last year. Parents are coordinating parties outdoors, at restaurants and at venues that have now been allowed to reopen.

Read about some of Long Island's creative pandemic birthday options.

Kosher food pantry serves people of all faiths

Before the pandemic, people would come to the Alix Rubinger kosher food pantry to pick up food twice a week.

Last April, Iris Astrof, who runs the pantry with her husband, Sam, knew they had to pivot. So they started making packages of kosher food for curbside pickups, where people could pull into the parking lot and get the items right in their trunks.

They still offer this service every other week. And although the pantry is part of a synagogue, volunteers say they serve Long Islanders of all faiths. Check it out.

More to know

Consumer prices in the metropolitan area increased in March year over year at the highest rate since the virus struck.

The New York State Department of Labor updated guidance regarding the state’s COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Law, which among other things clarifies how many times employees can access paid sick leave benefits.

For those observing the Vaisakhi holiday Tuesday and Wednesday this week, some had limited gatherings and followed celebrations via livestreamed services because of the pandemic.

News for you

Motorcycling season has begun. And it's gotten more popular during the pandemic. If your motorcycle has been sitting at home waiting to take a ride, it's important to go over a checklist before heading out. Here are some tips.

LI lighthouses you can visit this season. There are plenty open for visitors and tours. Check this guide for details, and you might want to view the latest social distancing guidelines before your visit.

A vaccination concert is coming. Global Citizen hopes to help medical workers in the world’s poorest countries get vaccinated, backed by an international concert hosted by Selena Gomez and headlined by Jennifer Lopez. "VAX Live: The Concert to Reunite the World" airs in May.

Returning to school and vaccines. During Newsday Live's webinar at 4 p.m. on Thursday, experts will discuss going back to school as vaccines become more available and testing for children continues. Register here.

Plus: Allergies are abundant — even if you're stuck at home. Here are ways to spruce up your house to make it more allergy-proof.

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A look at who's getting vaccinated in Nassau. Newsday's Randi F. Marshall and Kai Teoh write: Nassau County is leading the race to full vaccination, as 46%, or 514,506 residents, had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by last week.

That’s better than Suffolk County, which had as of last week vaccinated just 37% of its eligible residents, or the state, which was hovering just above that figure.

Both counties make their calculations based on those eligible for a shot, which is now all people over age 16.

According to Nassau’s latest data, broken down by ZIP codes, Massapequa’s 11758 had the most residents vaccinated — with 20,601 of them getting at least one shot. That represents 47% of the ZIP code’s 43,796 eligible residents.

ZIP codes in New Hyde Park, Levittown, Merrick and Hicksville rounded out the top five, all with more than 15,000 residents receiving at least one shot. Keep reading, and click through an interactive map.