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Nassau sees higher COVID-19 cases, as positivity edges up in New York

People walk Thursday past Santoli Radio and TV

People walk Thursday past Santoli Radio and TV Service, along Main Street in Port Washington, a day after Nassau County registered 216 new COVID-19 cases, its highest daily count since early May. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

This story was reported by Rachelle Blidner, Matthew Chayes, Jesse Coburn, Scott Eidler and Lisa L. Colangelo. It was written by Colangelo

State officials reported 216 new cases of COVID-19 in Nassau County on Thursday, its highest daily count for positives since early May, while the rate of positive cases across all of Long Island hit 2% for the first time in months.

Those statistics reflect rising COVID-19 numbers in the state, prompting a warning from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to stay vigilant in the wake of "COVID fatigue." Suffolk hit a recent high of 200 cases on Oct. 28.

"Cases are going up all across the country, they are going up all around the globe and they are going to go up in New York," Cuomo said during a radio interview on WAMC’s The Roundtable with Alan Chartock on Thursday morning.

"We are not an island," he said. "Our boat floats on the national tide."

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the new cases, out of 9,862 tests reported in the county Wednesday, represent a 2.2% positivity rate. She said 86 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in the county.

"These are numbers we haven’t seen since early June," Curran said in a statement. "While Nassau is still in a good position compared to the rest of the country, we’re closely monitoring this uptick in cases and hospitalizations."

The state reported there were 2,997 new COVID-19 positives, the highest daily count since early May. That included 179 in Suffolk County. The rate of new positive cases is 1.86% statewide. In focus areas or hot spots with more cases, the positivity rate is 3.04%.

On Long Island, where at least three schools were closed Thursday after either students or staff members tested positive for the virus, the rate of new positive cases last reached 2% in July.

The upstate Western New York and Finger Lakes regions posted rates above 3%.

There were 24 deaths due to COVID-19 recorded on Wednesday, leading to a grim state total of 25,892 through the pandemic.

Cuomo said the state’s "micro-cluster" strategy, which focuses attention and resources on spikes and clusters of new cases, has helped prevent further spread, but the state's positivity level has been edging higher for days.

In New York City, officials recently identified two focus zones on Staten Island.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that more than 3% of tests given for people who live in the 10305 and 10314 ZIP codes have come back positive.

"It’s in a couple of places," de Blasio said. "This is, at this point, a pretty narrow problem."

In related developments, Suffolk County officials are urging anyone who voted at a Stony Brook Southampton campus site to monitor their health after a poll worker tested positive. There is no current need to isolate themselves, officials said.

"Upon receiving a positive COVID test for a poll worker, the Suffolk County Department of Health immediately began a contact tracing investigation and has been in contact with all close contacts of the individual who tested positive," county spokesman Derek Poppe said. "While we do not believe there to be any additional community spread from this case, individuals who voted early at this location should self-monitor their overall health for COVID symptoms and get tested if they become symptomatic."

The United States has recorded nearly 9.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center. The U.S. leads the world in cases and deaths, which reached 231,352 on Thursday.

Dr. Jay Varma, a top health official helping New York City combat the pandemic, said there is no "single common event or single common exposure that explains the increases" in Staten Island.

De Blasio said there are no current plans to close down or further restrict activities in those areas, but the city will provide additional testing, outreach and contact tracing to stem any further spread of the virus. It also will take other measures to encourage compliance with social distancing and face masking, he said.

School closings in Carle Place, Glen Head, Malverne

North Shore High School in Glen Head was closed for nearly two weeks on Wednesday because four students tested positive for the virus, Superintendent Peter Giarrizzo wrote in a message to the school community on Tuesday.

The cases were connected to "a large student party over the weekend" and other smaller events that may have exposed hundreds of students to the virus, Giarrizzo wrote.

In addition, he reported on Tuesday that two staff members at Glen Head Elementary School contracted the virus. The school was closed Wednesday but reopened Thursday. Giarrizzo did not respond to a request for comment.

Malverne High School in Malverne has been on remote instruction since last Friday, and that will continue through Tuesday, because one person in the district tested positive for the virus, according to Superintendent Lorna Lewis. Lewis did not say whether the person was a student, teacher or staff member, but said the individual had "multiple contacts."

Rushmore Avenue Elementary School in Carle Place remained closed for the second day Thursday after one person at the school tested positive for the virus. Superintendent Christine Finn said the school would reopen Monday.