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Cuomo: Rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations 'a caution flag' for state

Voters wear masks to reduce coronavirus risk as

Voters wear masks to reduce coronavirus risk as they wait Tuesday to cast ballots at the Mitchel Community Center in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. Credit: Getty Images/David Dee Delgado

The number of new positive COVID-19 tests in New York continues to slowly climb, even as the state has one of the lowest rates in the country.

Statistics released by the state on Tuesday show the test positivity rate is 1.81% — the highest since early June. Of the 127,869 tests reported on Sunday, 2,321 were positive, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The number of New Yorkers who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic is now 513,689. State numbers show 195 of the new cases reported Monday were in Nassau County and 176 in Suffolk County. New York City added 802 cases.

The test positivity rate on Long Island is similar to the state average at 1.8%. In New York City, it is 1.5%.

The positive testing rate in focus areas — neighborhoods with high concentrations of new cases where the state and city have imposed tighter restrictions to limit exposure — is 2.63%. The statewide testing rate, outside of those hot spots, is 1.71%.

"As our metrics demonstrate, New York State is not immune from the wave of COVID outbreaks currently sweeping across the nation," Cuomo said in a statement. "The increase in cases and hospitalizations over the past weeks must serve as a caution flag that unless we are vigilant and continue wearing masks, washing our hands and remaining socially distant, the viral spread will increase."

An additional 76 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, figures show, for a current total of 1,227.

Cuomo said the state’s progress is "threatened by the national surge in new cases."

Rates of confirmed new positives for COVID-19 in other parts of the country have reached double digits such as in Iowa, where it is 37.4%, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center. In New Jersey, the rate was 4.2%, Connecticut was 3.6% and Florida was 6%.

But the rate of testing in each state varies widely as well. While 6.9 tests are given per 1,000 people in New York, 1.6 tests are given per 1,000 people in Iowa. In Florida, 3.2 tests are given per 1,000 people, and in New Jersey, 4.3 tests per 1,000 people.

Fourteen additional New Yorkers died Monday because of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 25,853.

In New York City, the average daily number of new COVID-19 cases remains high and is a "cause for concern," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

The seven-day average was 605 on Sunday, the fourth day it was above the city-set threshold of 550, de Blasio said. Once cases surpass that threshold, the city may enact more aggressive restrictions on businesses, schools and other public sites to halt further spread.

"We are watching that very carefully," de Blasio said, speaking at his daily news conference.

"Now we face a challenge, and we’re not gonna back down in the face of a challenge. We’re gonna push these numbers back down again," he said.

The raw number of cases is one of several metrics the city government uses to decide how strictly to limit activity, such as public gatherings. The seven-day average rate of positive test results for New York City is 1.59%, de Blasio said.

Also on Tuesday, a new study by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai estimates more than 1.7 million New York City residents have been infected with the virus.

They looked at more than 10,000 plasma samples for the study.

Researchers said they believe the virus that causes COVID-19 was in the city before the first case was confirmed on March 1.

The authors said many people who had the virus and were asymptomatic or had mild to moderate symptoms "likely went undetected."

On Long Island, public and private schools had, as of Monday, reported 1,072 coronavirus positives since Sept. 8, an increase of 75 cases from the previous day, according to the state’s COVID-19 Report Card. Of those, 801 were students and 271 were teachers and staff members. The statewide tally was 3,471 students and 1,785 teachers and staff members for 5,256 positives in that period.