This story was reported by Alfonso A. Castillo, Matthew Chayes, Candice Ferrette, Bart Jones, Carol Polsky, David Reich-Hale and Joie Tyrrell. It was written by Jones.
California was added to the list of states from which travelers must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in New York State, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday, as he also discouraged any nonessential travel to or from Massachusetts.
Cuomo said the not-so-distant Massachusetts also qualifies to be on the list because of high levels of COVID-19 infection, but because — like those in the tristate area — it is too interconnected with New York, he will not include it on the quarantine list, which now numbers 41 states and territories.
He said in a statement that "given the interconnected nature of the region and mode of transport between the states, a quarantine on these states is not practically viable."
"That said, New York State highly discourages, to the extent practical, nonessential travel between Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania while they meet the travel advisory criteria," Cuomo added.
California was added to the list because it meets the criteria of having a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average or has a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.
The positive level in microclusters with high COVID-19 levels targeted for further restrictions in Brooklyn, Queens, Rockland and Orange counties was 3.65% in testing completed Monday, according to state data. That was an increase from 3.25% the previous day and up from figures last week that went as low as 2.31%.
Statewide, the positivity rate for the virus was 1.78%, including the red, orange and yellow zones in the microclusters, which are oversampled in the testing, and 1.53% not including them.
The number of people hospitalized with the virus statewide increased by 24 on Monday, to 1,083. That figure surpassed 1,000 last week for the first time since June. Fifteen people died of coronavirus-related causes.
"We know COVID is spreading at increased rates in other states and New York State is not in a hermetically sealed bubble," Cuomo said. "The numbers are a reminder that COVID is still here and continues to spread in communities across the state, particularly when people choose not to follow the safety protocols in place to control the virus. We continue to see outbreaks linked to mass gatherings at houses of worship, at weddings and funerals, and other events where the virus can quickly spread."
The level of positivity in testing completed Monday was 1.6% on Long Island and 1.7% in New York City. The number of new confirmed cases was 119 in Nassau County, 112 in Suffolk County and 731 in New York City.
Progress in the Five Towns area
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Tuesday that health authorities have made "incredible progress in such a short period of time" in the Five Towns and neighboring areas that had been designated a coronavirus "hot spot," cutting the number of COVID-19 cases by one-third in that area.
Further spread of the virus in the Five Towns area was limited through testing, contact tracing and community compliance with social distancing rules, Curran said.
She warned though that the record-breaking number of cases nationally, more cases surfacing in the Nassau schools, and a rise in hospitalizations locally are worrisome signs.
"While we have seen a slight increase in our hospitalizations, it is not near where it was. However, this uptick does cause me concern," Curran said. "Looking at the big picture, the United States recorded more cases in the last seven days than at any time since the beginning of the pandemic."
As of Tuesday morning, there were 66 hospitalizations in Nassau’s 11 hospitals, including 13 patients on ventilators, the county said.
Last week, officials announced expanded testing in Lawrence, where the number of cases dropped 25% since last week and 75% over the last three weeks.
New rapid-testing sites in the area, as well as smaller gatherings, better communication and new policies for the synagogues, have contributed to the progress, said Curran and some rabbis who appeared with her. The communities went from orange to yellow zones, for a lessened severity of COVID-19 infections, and Woodmere and Inwood saw a one-third drop in cases.
"That is quite an accomplishment," Curran said.
Limiting 'red zone' nursing home visits
New York late last week said it is reinstating restrictions on visits to hospitals and nursing homes in COVID-19 "red zones," as the state targets those microclusters to bring down the spread of the virus in hot spots around the state.
The new nursing home restrictions won’t immediately impact Long Island nursing homes because the region doesn’t have any red zones.
The state earlier this month imposed a series of restrictions in the so-called red zones and surrounding areas, including shutting schools and nonessential businesses and limiting the size of gatherings at houses of worship.
Nursing home executives said the new rules should be effective because they target one- to two-mile microclusters instead of an entire region.
But they added that some Long Island nursing homes aren’t allowing visitors anyway, because of a previous state mandate that prohibits visitors unless the facility goes 14 days without a new positive patient or staff COVID-19 test.
"From a practical standpoint, we are restricted on visitations anyway," said Stuart B. Almer, president and CEO of Commack-based Gurwin Healthcare System.
Almer said Gurwin tests between 900 and 1,100 staffers weekly, and "one positive test resets the visitation clock, and as a larger facility, we have a much greater possibility of a positive test."
Almer said the rules and safeguards have worked.
Separately, two of Northwell’s three nursing facilities are closed to visitors because of a newly diagnosed positive COVID-19 test administered to a staffer, said Gerard Kaiser, executive director of skilled nursing facility services at Northwell Health, which operates locations in Manhasset, Riverhead and Valley Stream.
Kaiser said he supported the "red zone" rules because "it doesn’t make as much sense to punish a facility in Southampton or Riverhead because there is an outbreak in Huntington. This is more focused."
In New York City, about 2.48% of New York City residents tested positive for the virus, according to the most recent figures, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.
The rate had straddled 1% at points over the summer, although de Blasio suggested that the most recent increase is due, at least in part, to increased testing in high-infection neighborhoods.
Two Westbury schools closed
Park Avenue School and Dryden Street School in Westbury switched to remote learning after a total of three students tested positive for COVID-19, Superintendent Eudes S. Budhai wrote in a note to parents dated Sunday.
Long Island public and private schools have reported a total of 846 coronavirus positives since Sept. 8, according to the state’s COVID-19 Report Card. Of those, 625 were students and 221 teachers and staff members. The statewide tally for positives is 2,624 students and 1,400 teachers and staff members, for a total of 4,024 in that period.
Molloy College, a private Catholic university in Rockville Centre with more than 5,000 students, on Tuesday unveiled a plan to install a new air purification system in its three residential halls.
The university will use $1 million in CARE Act funding from a Town of Hempstead grant to purchase the Siemens technology, called O2Prime NPBI, which is installed in building HVAC systems and linked with individual monitor units in each dorm room. The technology releases ions to purify the air, Molloy said.
"In addition to temperature kiosks in all our buildings and strict masking and hand sanitizing protocols for everyone, this system goes above and beyond in keeping everyone as healthy as possible," said James P. Lentini, president of Molloy.
While many Molloy students commute to the school normally, many classes are now offered remotely in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Like everyone, we hope for a return to ‘normal’ as soon as possible," Lentini said. "That said, the safety of our community remains the most important thing, and we will continue to follow the science and the guidelines of both state and local health officials on all matters related to COVID."
MTA testing employees
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which was hard hit by the pandemic in the spring, announced a new initiative to test employees, who have seen an uptick in COVID-19 positive tests among their ranks, officials said.
The program will allow up to 2,000 MTA employees, including those at the Long Island Rail Road, to be tested each week at several rotating field locations throughout the transit system, including the LIRR’s rail yard at Hillside, Queens, and at other health facilities.
"This testing program is a necessary next step in our efforts to detect the virus, stop its spread and protect our hardworking brothers and sisters who have heroically served the region throughout the pandemic," said Anthony Simon, general chairman of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, the LIRR’s largest union.
The plan expands on an existing program that allowed LIRR workers to receive COVID-19 antibody tests at some railroad facilities. After losing nearly 130 workers to the virus through June, the rate of infection among MTA workers dropped substantially in the summer. But MTA chief safety officer Patrick Warren acknowledged "a very small" uptick in cases as of late. He said the rate of infection remains at around 0.10% among the MTA’s workforce, which numbers more than 70,000.
NEW YORK’S TRAVEL QUARANTINE LIST
Travelers in New York State’s “travel advisory” list, due to community spread of the COVID-19 virus, are required to quarantine for 14 days. The quarantine applies to any person arriving from an area with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average, or an area with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. The following is the updated list of states and other jurisdictions whose travelers face those restrictions in New York as of Oct. 27:
Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
SOURCE: New York Governor’s Office