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LI's seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate is highest in New York, Cuomo says

The state-run Stony Brook University COVID-19 vaccination site

The state-run Stony Brook University COVID-19 vaccination site opens on Monday. Credit: Barry Sloan

Long Island's seven-day COVID-19 positivity average rate is the highest in New York state, a development that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday called "problematic," as he touted the increased pace of vaccinations in the state even as supply issues persist.

The 7.84% seven-day positivity average stood ahead of every other region, including more than 2 percentage points above New York City's rate of 5.73%, according to the governor.

"That’s problematic and that’s new, by the way," Cuomo said at his coronavirus news briefing on Monday, adding that Long Island's percentage of its population hospitalized with COVID-19, 0.06%, matches the Mohawk Valley and Finger Lakes for the highest rate in the state.

"Long Island has taken a relative jump, which is concerning and we’re watching that, because Long Island jumped up, not in the right direction," he said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's office said Nassau's daily positivity level has dropped after the post-holiday increase earlier this month.

Nassau is at 6.2% and hovering at 7.1% on the 7-day average, according to the state's figures, "which is much lower than where we were earlier this month," spokesman Jordan Carmon said in an email on Monday.

The daily positivity level in the county hit nearly 10% on Jan. 5.

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"As Long Islanders continue to wait for supply chains to ramp up, we must double down on social distancing and remember to limit gatherings and wear masks," Curran said in a statement. "With an end to this pandemic finally within reach, now is not the time to let down our guard."

The daily positivity level on Long Island as a whole from test results Sunday was 7.3%, with the level in Suffolk registering at 8.5%, according to state figures released Monday.

The daily positivity rate in Suffolk hit nearly 13% at the end of December. The county's seven-day average as of Sunday was 8.6%.

Long Island's 7-day positivity average has been dropping over the past week-plus, from 9.6% on Jan. 9 to 7.84% on Sunday, according to state data.

"We don’t put too much stock into any single day’s numbers, but the 7-day … average continues to trend in the right direction post holiday surge," said Derek Poppe, spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

The overall rate of increase in COVID hospitalizations in New York is slowing and at its lowest level since October, the governor said, and the statewide daily positivity rate is slowing as well, hitting 6.54% on Sunday.

The governor offered some good news on the vaccine front, highlighting what he said was an accelerating pace of first-dose administration at sites across the state, with over one million doses distributed in the state so far.

About 77% of allocated doses have been administered on Long Island, Cuomo said, though he spotlighted a continuing discrepancy in distribution across facilities, with some hospital systems faring better than others.

"For the lower performing facilities, we are going to give them less, if any, of the new allocation," Cuomo said. "They’ll all have enough to do their staff but we want to make sure that the faster facilities, the higher performing facilities, get more of the new allocation."

Returning to his frequent criticism of the federal government over the vaccine supply, Cuomo released a letter he sent to Dr. Albert Bouria, the chairman and CEO of Pfizer, asking for New York to purchase vaccines directly from the company. Cuomo said he has not yet received a response.

The governor also sent a letter to Alex Azar, President Donald Trump's head of the Department of Health and Human Services, demanding that he explain the federal government's "false" claim last week that it would release more doses moving forward, at the same time it dramatically expanded the number of people eligible for shots.

He said New York's allotment — initially 300,000 doses a week, now down to about 250,000 a week — was woefully short of what is needed to vaccinate the state in a timely fashion.

At 300,000 doses a week, it would take six months just to vaccinate the 7 million people approved for shots so far, Cuomo said. At 250,000 doses a week, it would take seven months.

New York State has about 19.5 million people, so at that rate — and if children are eventually approved for the vaccine — it could take a year and a half to protect the entire state.

Cuomo said all staff and residents at nursing homes who want to be vaccinated have received their shots. Any leftover vaccines from those facilities will be transferred to other sites.

Curran said she is "proud that Nassau County's Department of Health is among the highest performing vaccine operations in the State, and I'm also pleased to see so many of Nassau’s hospitals performing well."

"We must increase the scale of federal vaccine shipments so we can pick up the pace. Nassau has the infrastructure in place to administer the vaccine in greater numbers, and we're investing in the outreach necessary," she said.

With Rachelle Blidner and Candice Ferrette

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