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LI's daily COVID-19 case total tops 400

Cuomo: 'We can't go backward'

Nassau County had 252 new cases in test results from Wednesday and Suffolk had 183, for a regional total of 435. Long Island's seven-day daily average of new COVID-19 cases reached 341 Wednesday — an increase of 293 cases in the last 30 days.

The rising COVID-19 indicators come as the highly contagious delta variant spreads, large numbers of people remain unvaccinated and mitigation measures wane.

The positivity level in testing continued to rise, with Long Island's seven-day average increasing in recent days from 2.36% to 2.42% to 2.58%. The statewide average stands at 2.17%.

"The vaccine is our strongest defense against the COVID virus, particularly the delta variant. We don't want to go backward, we can't go backward and with the vaccine available there's no reason why we should go backward," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement Thursday.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday praised restaurant owner Danny Meyer's move as a bold example of how to help fight the rise of COVID-19 cases, Newsday's Bart Jones and John Valenti report. Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, which includes the Union Square Café, will require people be vaccinated to dine in its restaurants in both New York and Washington D.C.

The mayor also noted that the city will begin offering a $100 gift card to anyone who gets vaccinated at city-run sites starting Friday.

The number of new positives reported today: 252 in Nassau, 183 in Suffolk, 1,393 in New York City and 2,567 statewide.

The chart below shows New York City and New York State's rising positivity rates for the virus over seven-day periods.

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

Cuomo: NY mandating vaccine or testing for state workers

New York State is mandating that all state employees get vaccinated for COVID-19 or tested weekly and that all patient-facing health care workers in state-run hospitals receive the vaccine by Labor Day.

Cuomo said the state was reviewing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation that vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors on Long Island, New York City and other parts of the United States with a high level of COVID-19 spread. He called for New York's local governments to consider mandating vaccines for their workers and for school districts to prepare to use tougher mitigation efforts, including requiring shots for teachers, if numbers continue to rise.

"I think we need dramatic action to get control of this situation," Cuomo said.

"It will be hard and I understand the politics, but I also understand if we don't take the right action, schools can become superspreaders in September," he said while addressing a virtual breakfast for the Association for Better New York. "It will happen; we have seen it happen before."

'I'm hopeful they all come back'

On remote learning days, students at the Henry Viscardi School missed their friends, teachers and Sunny, the specially trained yellow Labrador retriever who greeted them each morning and joined them in class.

That was last school year.

The school in Albertson for severely disabled children started its 2021-22 term earlier this month with a return to five days of in-person instruction, along with a remote option. Educators are planning — if the state approves — for nearly all the K-12 students to be on site this fall and for them to resume their after-school activities, Newsday's Joie Tyrrell writes.

"I'm hopeful they all come back. You can't replicate being in-person remotely — it is just not the same," said the head of school, Angelo Zegarelli.

The year-round school switched to full virtual learning at the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, then ran on a hybrid schedule this past school year, with three days in person while also offering a full-remote option.

State-supported Viscardi — which draws students from Nassau, Suffolk, New York City and sometimes even further away — provides a traditional setting for students with disabilities, including those deaf and blind, who often require life-sustaining medical treatment. The school fills the needs of students that local districts cannot meet, such as supporting physical accessibility, medical support and assistive technology.

When masks are still needed

Should vaccinated people mask up with COVID-19 cases rising?

Yes, says the CDC. In places where the coronavirus is surging, the agency recommends that vaccinated people return to wearing masks in public indoor places.

The CDC announced the updated guidance this week, citing new evidence that vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections could carry enough virus in their noses and throats to infect others.

COVID-19 vaccines greatly reduce the chance of severe illness and death and remain effective against variants, including the now-predominant delta variant. It is still possible to get infected, though, as the term breakthrough infections shows.

As for masking, it could prevent the spread of the virus to children too young for vaccination and people who are immunocompromised.

More to know

In another sign the job market continues to recover rapidly from the coronavirus recession, jobless claims were down 24,000 to 400,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced Wednesday that nonprofits and health and human service agencies in Nassau can apply for nearly $18 million in federal stimulus money for a wide range of programs, such as support for youth, veterans and mental health. She listed problems that were exacerbated by the pandemic, such as food insecurity.

Jets coach Robert Saleh said that 90% of his team's players have been vaccinated, as has the entire coaching staff.

The Aurora Music Festival planned for October in Patchogue has been canceled due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

News for you

Requiring COVID-19 vaccines. See our list of employers, schools and theaters in New York, including Long Island, that have issued vaccine mandates.

It's more infectious. But what else should you know about the delta variant? Here are some questions — including "Why do we keep hearing about new coronavirus variants?" — and answers.

Heather McGhee visits the Newsday Live Author Series. The chat with McGhee, an economics and social policy expert who is author of the New York Times bestseller "The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together," is Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Sign up here.

Plus: You can make your own Tour de Long Island on the new Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway.

Commentary

Mandate shots to fight COVID. The Newsday editorial board writes: The decision by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to require state workers to get vaccinated, or face regular testing, is an enormously important step in the fight against the pandemic — one that Long Island officials at all levels should replicate.

And Cuomo's move to require public-facing state hospital workers to get the shot — without the testing option — is also critical. It should filter down to private institutions, nursing homes and home health care aides.

This is a key moment. We're in a battle against the next phase of the pandemic, including the increasing presence of the delta strain. The vaccine remains the best tool to fight the virus. But the nation, state and region need to move quickly. Keep reading.

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