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State's COVID-19 positivity rate is lowest in over 2 months, Cuomo says

A health care worker prepares to administer the

A health care worker prepares to administer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Nassau Community College last month. Credit: Bloomberg / Johnny Milano

The rate of new positive COVID-19 cases in New York is the lowest in over two months, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday.

The daily positivity rate was 4.0%, based on 250,892 COVID-19 test results recorded on Saturday by the state. There were 10,025 new cases, including 854 in Suffolk County and 870 in Nassau County. The daily positivity rate has not been this low since Nov. 27.

That piece of good news came as people were expected to gather and watch Super Bowl LV on Sunday — an event that has some health experts and Cuomo worrying about a resurgence in cases.

"It's no accident that our positivity and hospitalizations are continuing to decline, this is happening because of the dedication and discipline shown by New Yorkers," Cuomo said in a statement. "While we are encouraged by these declining numbers, we must remain vigilant. Today, I urge New Yorkers to enjoy the Superbowl but be smart and don't do anything to undo our progress: wear a mask, practice social distancing and avoid gatherings."

The rate of new cases over a seven-day period was 4.5% overall for the state but 5.51% on Long Island — the highest of any region in New York.

Even so, that marks a continued drop in Long Island’s seven-day rate, which was 9.5% one month ago.

And Long Island's daily positivity rate was 5.1% on Saturday. Both the mid-Hudson and North Country regions were higher for the day.

There were 7,649 people in hospitals across New York being treated for COVID-19, the lowest number since Christmas Day, Cuomo said.

But the tragic toll from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus continued with 143 new deaths recorded in the state Saturday, for a total of 36,224 since the start of the pandemic last year. Included in the 143 were 16 people from Suffolk County and six in Nassau County, according to state figures.

Experts said New York has recovered from the post-holiday surge of cases. The challenge remains making sure people continue to wear masks and follow social distancing protocols to slow the future spread of the virus during efforts to vaccinate eligible New Yorkers.

GETTING COVID-19 VACCINES IN NY

Who qualifies for COVID-19 shots?

The State of New York has expended its eligibility list for vaccines against COVID-19 several times, expanding the groups of people included in the phases. This is a summary of the eligible groups. The following are the qualifying categories, as revised on March 29.

Group in Phase 1A

The state said about 2.1 million state residents belong in this group, including:

  • Health care workers at hospitals who interact with patients.
  • Residents and staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
  • Dentists, psychologists and others deemed health care workers with direct contact with patients.
  • Employees of Federally Qualified Health Centers.
  • EMT volunteers and staff.
  • Coroners, medical examiners, some funeral workers.
  • Staff and residents of state facilities for people with developmental disabilities, mental health care and addiction services.
  • Employees at urgent care centers.
  • Individuals administering COVID-19 vaccines, including local health department staff.
  • Staff at ambulatory centers.
  • Home care and hospice workers.
  • Residents and staff at other congregate care facilities.

Group in Phase 1B

The state estimated about 3.2 million residents belong in this group, including:

  • People 75 years of age and older.
  • Teachers and education workers, including in-person college instructors, substitute teachers, student teachers, school administrators, paraprofessional staff, support staff, contractors in schools and bus drivers.
  • First responders, including police; firefighters; state police; sheriff’s offices; county, town and village police departments, and other law enforcement offices.
  • Public safety workers, including dispatchers and technicians.
  • Public transit workers, including airport, railroad, subway, bus, ferry and Port Authority employees.
  • Corrections officers.
  • Other sworn and civilian personnel, such as court and peace officers.
  • Grocery store workers dealing with the public.
  • Individuals living in homeless shelters.

Following federal recommendations:

Added at the discretion of local governments:

  • Taxi drivers.
  • Restaurant workers.
  • Residents of facilities for developmentally disabled people.
  • Hotel workers who interact with the public.

Other expansions of eligibility:

  • State residents age 60 and older (Since March 10, 2021).
  • “Public-facing” government and public employees (Since March 17, 2021).
  • Workers for not-for-profit organizations who provide “public-facing” services (Since March 17, 2021).
  • Building service workers who are “public-facing” employees (Since March 17, 2021).
  • State residents age 50 and older (Since March 23, 2021).

Since March 30, 2021:

Since April 6, 2021:

SOURCE: New York State, Northwell Health.

"Nassau County continues to see an encouraging decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. We're making real progress because residents are staying careful, and I want to commend our residents for their resilience during this difficult stretch," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement released Sunday.

During an update on the snowstorm blanketing Long Island on Sunday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone urged people to stay off the roads and watch the game at home.

"Enjoy the game but do everything you can to prevent transmission of the virus," Bellone said. "We know what we saw through the holidays is that the virus transmitted during gatherings, small gatherings in particular — family, friends coming together."

Vaccination centers operated by the state, including ones at Jones Beach State Park and at Stony Brook, were closed on Sunday because of the winter storm. The sites will reopen on Monday, Cuomo's top aide Melissa DeRosa tweeted on Sunday night.

State officials said people with appointments canceled on Sunday would receive emails or text messages with information on a new appointment for later in the week.

Curran said the Nassau County Health Department has rescheduled vaccination appointments at its centers that were postponed due to the weather "to ensure everyone with an appointment gets their shot."

As of Sunday morning, over 1.6 million first doses and over 500,000 second doses of the vaccine had been administered, according to figures released by the state. Health care distribution sites in the state had administered 87% of the first doses received.

On Long Island, 345,505 doses have been received and 274,566 have been administered — both first and second doses. The current vaccines available from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTeach both require two doses given, respectively, 28 and 21 days apart.

With Cecilia Dowd

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