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State: New York's COVID-19 cases continuing to decline

A patient at South Shore University Hospital in

A patient at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore gets the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in March. Credit: Randee Daddona

New York continued to make progress in reducing COVID-19 indicators of infection levels, registering the lowest seven-day average in virus positivity since Nov. 12, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday.

The seven-day average of 2.8% was hailed by the governor as another sign the state is reversing a surge in cases, positivity levels and deaths that started with the Thanksgiving holiday, continued through Christmas and lasted for weeks.

"New York State is making progress in the fight against COVID-19, but we have to remember not to get cocky — this pandemic isn't over yet and it's important to continue practicing safe behaviors so we don't lose the hard-earned gains we've made," Cuomo said in a statement.

The seven-day positivity average on Long Island fell to 3.04% after weeks hovering above 4%. New York City's average was 3.01%. During the summer, the positivity rate had tracked as low as 1% on Long Island and statewide.

The number of new confirmed cases in test results from Monday was 277 in Nassau and 290 in Suffolk. That was a sharp drop from some of the levels seen in the holiday surge, when each county registered close to or more than 1,000 cases a day.

Long Island's total of 567 new cases was the first time since Nov. 9 that the figure was below 600. On that day, it was 558.

The statewide total of 3,922 new cases on Monday was the first time since Nov. 15 the figure was under 4,000. On that day, it was 3,490.

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The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units on Monday declined to 823, the lowest figure since Dec. 3, Cuomo said. A total of 45 people died in the state on Monday of COVID-19-related causes, including two in Nassau County and six in Suffolk County.

The improving numbers come as the weather turns warmer, people are outside more, and are more likely to open windows in buildings for ventilation. And every day tens of thousands more New Yorkers and Long Islanders are getting vaccinated against the virus.

The state, however, continued to lag others, such as Texas, California and Florida, in the seven-day positivity rate, registering 210.4 cases per 100,000 outside of New York City and 218.1 cases per 100,000 in New York City, according to CDC figures from Monday.

The virus is tenacious, Cuomo said, and he warned people to keep washing their hands, wear masks, and socially distance "not just for your own safety, but to protect your fellow New Yorkers.

EU: J&J vaccine shipments to resume

Meanwhile, ahead of an expected decision on use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine in the United States, European Union regulators said Tuesday that they had found a "possible link" between the one-shot dose and very rare blood clots, and recommended a warning be added to the label.

But experts at the agency reiterated that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks.

The European Medicines Agency made its determination after examining a small number of clot cases in people vaccinated in the United States. It said these problems should be considered "very rare side effects of the vaccine."

J&J immediately announced it will revise its label as requested and resume vaccine shipments to the EU, Norway and Iceland. In a statement, it said: "The safety and well-being of the people who use our products is our number one priority."

U.S. officials on April 13 recommended a pause on using the vaccine while they examined several cases of women who developed a serious blood-clotting disorder after receiving the J&J shots.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent vaccine advisory panel is expected to meet Friday to discuss whether the pause on the single-shot J&J vaccine should continue or be modified.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said Sunday that he believes the panel is likely to end the pause but could place restrictions or warnings on the use of J&J.

U.S. officials have not determined if the clots were linked to the vaccine.

Inoculations using the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have continued during the pause.

"It’s not to be minimized, but we need to emphasize that it’s a rare event," Dr. Leonard Krilov, chairman of pediatrics and chief of pediatric infectious disease at NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island, said of the blood clots.

"It’s also proof that monitoring works … I hope this doesn’t further fuel vaccine hesitancy in general," he said. "Our greatest hope for getting a hold on this disease is to vaccinate."

Krilov said the vaccine is important and needs to be put in context. He noted more than 3 million deaths across the globe have been attributed to COVID-19.

"Vaccines are safe," he said. "The problem is safe doesn’t necessarily mean harmless … We have to balance it against what COVID is doing."

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran urged residents to get vaccinated, with no preregistration required for those 18 and over at county venues, saying, "Let’s keep up the pace so we can protect residents and fully open our businesses and schools."

With AP and Lisa L. Colangelo

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