This story was reported by John Asbury, Lisa L. Colangelo, Bart Jones and Maura McDermott. It was written by Jones and McDermott.
New York State again shattered its record for new daily COVID-19 cases, as one urgent care chain shut down two locations on Long Island because of a crush of people seeking tests, and six hospitals said they would stop allowing most visitors.
State data from test results Tuesday showed 28,924 new cases, breaking the record of 23,391 set on Sunday. The figure from Tuesday was more than double that from a week ago, when the number of positives stood at 12,944.
"This virus is going vertical," Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday. "It’s going straight up."
What to know
New York again shattered its record for new daily COVID-19 cases, with nearly 29,000.
CityMD temporarily closed two sites on Long Island because it is overwhelmed with people seeking COVID-19 tests.
Six more hospitals on Long Island will stop allowing most visitors because of the meteoric rise in COVID-19 cases.
The seven-day average for test results on Tuesday reached 10.97% on Long Island. Two days earlier, it was 9.84%. Statewide, the seven-day average went from 7.40% to 8.58% in the last two days.
The daily levels in each county remained higher than the seven-day figure, with test results coming back 13.5% positive in Suffolk and 13.4% in Nassau. Suffolk registered 2,138 new cases, and Nassau saw 2,468.
But Hochul said the state remains in a better position than in March 2020 and even December 2020. Substantially fewer people are hospitalized with the virus than a year ago, and fewer people are dying.
"We’re not panicking," she said. "We have the resources we need."
The total number of New Yorkers who died on Tuesday from causes linked to the virus was 57, including two each in Nassau and Suffolk. That remains well below the worst days of the pandemic in March and April 2020 when nearly 800 New Yorkers were dying from the virus every day.
Hochul outlined updates to the state's efforts to fight the winter surge, including millions more take-home tests; new testing locations at MTA stations, including the Times Square and Grand Central subway hubs; and state-run testing sites, including two planned for Long Island.
The governor said 12 new state-run testing sites should open before Christmas.
While the number of new cases is soaring, Hochul said the key indicator is the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 — and that number remains under control.
The number of patients hospitalized with the virus grew by 124 on Tuesday, to 4,452. At the peak of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, about 18,000 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in the state.
On Long Island, the CityMD urgent care chain is temporarily shutting locations in Merrick and in Bay Shore because it has been inundated with people asking for COVID-19 tests and lacks the staff to keep up, the company said Wednesday.
They are among 19 sites CityMD is shuttering temporarily in the metropolitan area.
In a message on its website, CityMD said it is operating at full capacity and needed to close the locations to preserve staffing levels.
"It is our hope that closing sites now will best allow us to avoid future closures as this surge continues," the message read.
People hoping to get services at the Merrick site at 1989 Merrick Rd. were redirected to CityMD Bellmore at 2459 Merrick Rd. Those looking for the Bay Shore location at 1757 Sunrise Hwy. were sent to the Bay Shore-South Sunrise Highway site at 1850 Sunrise Hwy.
The media office of Summit Health, which owns CityMD, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Northwell hospitals restrict visitors
With the COVID-19 numbers growing, South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore and Huntington Hospital will no longer allow most visitors starting Thursday, said Northwell Health spokesman Jason Molinet.
North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park will suspend most visitation starting Sunday, and Plainview Hospital and Syosset Hospital will do the same starting Monday, he added.
Decisions about visitation policies are made on a "hospital-by-hospital basis," and each hospital will continue to evaluate its policies, Molinet added.
At South Shore University Hospital, for instance, one visitor per patient is allowed for labor and delivery, pediatrics, certain medical necessities and end-of-life care, as long as the visitors can show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in the previous 72 hours.
The health system's other Long Island hospitals have similar policies, Northwell spokeswoman Miriam Sholder said.
Northwell, which owns and operates 19 hospitals, including 11 on Long Island, is adding the new restrictions "to prevent any spread of infection," said Joe Moscola, an executive vice president.
The announcement came a day after Mount Sinai South Nassau said it won't allow visitors to emergency room patients at its hospital in Oceanside and stand-alone emergency room in Long Beach.
Push for booster shots, other mitigation efforts
Meanwhile, both Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is running in next year's election for governor, and Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), a Democrat who is running against Hochul in the primary, on Wednesday renewed their accusations that Hochul has botched her handling of the pandemic.
They said the mandate she rolled out last week ordering people to either wear a mask or show proof of vaccination to enter indoor public areas was creating widespread problems and failing to solve the crisis.
"The rollout was a debacle," Zeldin said during a news conference in Smithtown.
Hochul announced the mandate on a Friday, but then on the following Monday when it went into effect said the state would not compel counties to enforce it. Some counties, including on Long Island, have said they won't enforce it.
Suozzi said Hochul's lack of executive experience is causing "chaos and confusion," and that she doesn't have a comprehensive plan to attack the crisis.
"This is exploding," he said. "We've been woefully unprepared, and we're paying the price for it."
Hochul said Wednesday she has taken steps to combat the virus, including temporarily pausing nonessential elective surgeries at some hospitals and requiring booster shots to be available in all nursing homes.
She said she also has deployed the National Guard to nursing homes to help with staffing, and enacted the mask or vaccine mandate in public indoor places.
At Northwell, the number of COVID-19 patients has been rising since Thanksgiving, with 513 now hospitalized, Northwell president and CEO Michael Dowling said Wednesday. That compares with about 900 at this time last year, and 3,500 during the first surge in early 2020, he said.
The number of COVID-19 patients is likely to keep rising after Christmas, potentially to 900 in January, though estimates vary, Dowling added.
"We'll be able to handle it," he said. "What we're concerned about is to make sure that everybody gets the booster shot."
Dowling said about 80% of those who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. About 5% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 have received a booster shot, according to Northwell.
"If you are vaccinated, it doesn't mean you won't get COVID, but the likelihood of ending up in the hospital or in the ICU is greatly diminished," Dowling said.
Those who have gotten the vaccine and then get COVID-19, he said, are likely to "feel bad for a day or two," but they’ll build up their own immunity and the level of protection in their community.
In the last seven days, about 500 of Northwell's 77,000 staff members at hospitals and outpatient centers have gone out on quarantine because they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and are symptomatic, according to Northwell.
The health system has seen a "very, very dramatic increase" in the number of employees getting boosters, with 600 getting the shots within the last day, Moscola said.
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