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Cuomo: COVID-19 moves fast — vaccination efforts should be just as swift

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday said Monday's

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday said Monday's expansion of those eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine is critical to finally getting control of the virus. Credit: Office of the Governor

With the rate of positive COVID-19 cases on Long Island hovering just under 10%, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reminded New Yorkers on Sunday that the rapid pace of new cases must be matched by a surge in the number of people receiving the vaccine.

The governor also said a variant of the coronavirus first detected in Great Britain and found in New York, including in one case on Long Island, makes the expansion of those eligible for the vaccine that much more critical.

Cuomo released the latest COVID-19 statistics, which included 15,355 new cases statewide Saturday, with 1,403 in Nassau and 1,732 in Suffolk.

The rate of positive cases across the state, based on 246,836 test results registered Saturday, was 6.2%, according to the latest statistics from Cuomo's office. But the rate was higher on Long Island, at 8.5%. It hit 10% on Jan. 5.

Suffolk County's positivity rate was at 9.6% and Nassau County's at 7.5%.There are 8,484 people hospitalized in New York with COVID-19.

Meanwhile, health care providers across Long Island and in the city are gearing up as more groups of people are lining up to be vaccinated this week.

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Starting Monday, the COVID-19 vaccine will be offered to teachers, education workers, first responders, public safety workers, public transit workers and people 75 and older, the group known as 1B.

Vaccination efforts — which started Dec. 14 — have been focused primarily on health care workers as well as nursing home patients and residents.

On Saturday, Cuomo said 543,000 dosages of the vaccine had been administered in the state so far.

"New York State is now in a footrace between how fast the infection rate rises and how fast we can administer vaccines," Cuomo said Sunday. "With more U.K. strain cases being found across the country, it is even more important that New Yorkers continue to follow the guidelines" and wear a mask, avoid gatherings and continue to practice social distancing.

On Saturday, Cuomo said a 64-year-old Massapequa man had the virus variant associated with the United Kingdom. Experts believe while this variant appears to be more contagious, it is not more virulent.

The man first tested positive on Dec. 27. On Saturday, officials said the state Health Department was working with contact tracers in Nassau County to determine if anyone else was exposed.

The first case of the U.K. variant in New York was found in a man who worked in an upstate jewelry store. State officials said he had been near a person who recently traveled to the U.K. On Saturday, two of his co-workers were found to have the variant.

Any possible contacts of the U.K. variant cases will receive priority testing at the state's drive-thru locations at Jones Beach and the University at Albany, officials said.

State and local health officials did not provide any other details on Sunday about the Long Island case, such as whether the Massapequa man traveled. Nassau County officials said the case is still under investigation.

"The vaccine is the key to ending this virus," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Sunday in a statement. "We opened another vaccination pod at the 'Yes We Can' Center in Westbury, further expanding accessibility of the vaccine for eligible residents and helping us meet our goal of getting thousands of residents inoculated weekly."

She encouraged all newly eligible for the vaccine to step forward and be inoculated.

"While the criteria to receive the vaccine continues to expand, let’s all remain patient and keep practicing our public health guidance while we await our turn," Curran said. "Also, news of the U.K. variant being found in Nassau County reminds us how important it is for us to stay vigilant so we can save lives and keep our businesses and schools open."

Across the state, 151 people died Saturday due to COVID-19, officials said, including 12 in Nassau and 15 in Suffolk County.

The Manhasset schools are closing down in-person learning for 10 days after a spike blamed on families who traveled over Christmas break, then failed to quarantine as required by law, the superintendent wrote in a letter Sunday.

All instruction will be remote from Jan. 11 to Jan. 18, with schools reopening Jan. 19, the superintendent, Vincent Butera, wrote in his letter.

He said that the families also failed to acknowledge, via the district's "Cleared4Class" online certification system, having traveled, even though doing so is required by district policy.

"While unintentional, events like this generate a great deal of fear and anxiety among families, students, and staff. Please be reminded that we are all obligated to keep each other safe and healthy," the letter said.

Butera could not be reached for comment.

Since the pandemic started in early 2020, there have been over 22 million confirmed cases and more than 372,000 COVID-19 related deaths in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

On Sunday, Cuomo unveiled a proposal to provide nurses priority admission to all CUNY and SUNY programs. The plan, part of the State of the State speech scheduled for Monday, would cover licensed nurses and nursing candidates.

Under New York State law, nurses with an associate degree have 10 years to complete a baccalaureate of science degree in order to remain licensed.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was scheduled to tour a mass vaccination site in the Bronx on Sunday.

With Matthew Chayes

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