New York's COVID-19 positive rate hovers near 5% as vaccine arrives
The statewide infection rate in New York is 4.96% according to the most recent test results, with 106 new deaths, of which three were in Nassau County and five in Suffolk, according to a news release from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday.
The release said there were 871 people in the hospital with coronavirus on Long Island, with 19% of hospital beds available in the region over a seven-day average, according to the release. As of Saturday, the infection rate was 5.62% on the Island, Cuomo's office said.
The rates, reflecting a spike in cases in recent weeks and months, came as the first of the coronavirus vaccines departed Michigan, bound for places like New York, where they could be administered as early as Monday.
New York State, once the epicenter of the pandemic, is letting the federal government vaccinate nursing home residents and workers, Cuomo has said. The state's initial shipment will be about 170,000 doses, with more to come in the following weeks, Cuomo's office said in a news release last week. High-risk workers on the health care front lines are also slated to be vaccinated first.
The vaccine, made by Pfizer, is to be administered in two doses three weeks apart.
About 90 sites across the state are prepared to store the vaccine in special freezers reaching necessary temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius.
Citing the higher infection rates, Cuomo late last week ordered that eateries in New York City close indoor dining beginning Monday — the second time since March that indoor service was banned. Indoor dining has been found to be almost 20 times more likely to transmit the virus than outdoor service.
Also last week, Cuomo said he would tweak the metrics shaping the state's color-coded zoned rules, such as designating a "Red Zone" — which means further closures and other restrictions — in any region where hospital capacity is within three weeks of reaching 90%, even after the cancellation of elective procedures and an expansion of bed capacity. Such procedures have only been mandated by the state to be canceled in Western New York's Erie County so far.
Meanwhile, the Connetquot, Farmingdale and Port Washington public school districts announced certain closures of in-person learning this week due to positive tests in their communities.
On Sunday morning, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on federal lawmakers to grant the Metropolitan Transportation Authority $4 billion in pandemic relief as part of a broader government funding plan due Friday.
The federal government will run out of money by the end of the week if lawmakers do not reach a deal, Schumer said, and the MTA deserves a piece of whatever spending is ultimately approved.
"Our transit system is in desperate need for a cash infusion to weather this pandemic," Schumer said at a news conference outside a subway station in Manhattan. "This isn't all the money the MTA needs, but it should tide them over for the next four to six months until we can get a bigger package under the Biden administration."
The coronavirus pandemic has caused revenue to plummet across the MTA’s transit systems, including the Long Island Rail Road. Ridership on the railroad was down more than 70% last week, according to MTA data.
The MTA has already received $4 billion through a federal coronavirus aid package passed in March. But agency officials say they need $12 billion more to avert drastic service cuts.
Also Sunday, Connetquot High School acting Principal Michael A. Moran said the campus, which shut down Friday after students and teachers in the Bohemia district tested positive for the coronavirus, will remain closed to in-person learning until Dec. 21.
Learning is to be done online "out of a concern for the building’s ability to provide adequate supervision during the school day," Moran wrote in a letter emailed to the school community.
"All high school students will learn from home by logging in to their regular daily schedule," Moran said.
On Thursday night, Dean Mittleman, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, sent out a letter saying that 10 students and two teachers throughout the district had tested positive for the coronavirus. On Friday, Connetquot High School and Cherokee Street Elementary School shifted to all virtual instruction in response.
It wasn't immediately known Sunday whether Cherokee Street Elementary School will resume in-person instruction Monday.
In the Port Washington Union Free School District, because "an increasing number of our staff members have either tested positive, or have been identified as close contacts," particularly three recent cases, Guggenheim Elementary School is shutting down from Monday to Friday, Superintendent Michael J. Hynes wrote Sunday afternoon in an email to district families.
And citing 15 reported cases over the weekend in all six of its buildings, and the possibility of more cases "as the evening draws on," the Farmingdale district announced it would close down in-person schooling and shift to all remote on Monday, the schools superintendent, Paul Defendini, announced Sunday night.
Districts across Long Island have implemented similar closures — sometimes an individual school building or buildings, sometimes the entire district — periodically since reopening in the fall as students and personnel have tested positive.