This story was reported by Vera Chinese, Lisa L. Colangelo, Scott Eidler and Michael O'Keeffe. It was written by Chinese and Colangelo.
Coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations across New York State have now dropped to rates last seen in the early days of the pandemic in mid-March, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday.
Five people died due to complications from the illness Saturday, the lowest number of deaths statewide since the pandemic began, with 616 new cases and 54 more hospital admissions. Nassau and Suffolk counties each reported one COVID-19-related death.
The continued drop in cases across New York is in stark contrast with the uptick in COVID-19 cases in Florida, Texas and other states.
"Our progress is a direct result of New Yorkers' discipline and hard work and an incremental, data-driven reopening," Cuomo said in a statement. "While today's numbers are very encouraging, New Yorkers must remain vigilant or the numbers will shoot right back up. Be smart, wear a mask, stay New York Tough!"
Last week, Cuomo joined with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to announce a quarantine of travelers coming from states with high COVID-19 infection rates.
Hospitalizations in New York State dropped to 869 Saturday, down 39 from the previous day. Those intubated in intensive care units during that same period rose slightly, from 144 to 145. The statewide death toll stands at 24,835 with a total of 392,539 confirmed cases since the outbreak began.
Speaking on NBC News' "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, the governor cautioned that those numbers could again rise if New Yorkers fail to comply with guidelines or if infected people from other states travel to New York.
"I’m now afraid of the spread coming from other states because we are one country and people travel," he said. "I’m afraid the infection rates in other states will come back to New York and raise that rate again."
Cuomo said his staff has reached out to officials in states with rising infection rates to offer assistance like ventilators or help establishing a contact tracing program.
When asked about potential school reopening plans, the governor declined to give a definitive response, noting that the start of school is still two months away.
"I want to see what the infection rate is and what the disease is doing before we pull the trigger and make the decision," he said.
In Suffolk County, 53 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday out of 5,095 checked — a 1% positive rate, said County Executive Steve Bellone.
That's "right where we want to be," he said.
Hospitalizations also continued to decrease in Suffolk, which entered Phase 3 of reopening Wednesday along with Nassau.
"We are continuing to have conversations with the state about different elements of Phase 4 but we are looking forward to getting into this first full week of Phase 3 and continuing to progress safely to reopening," Bellone said.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Sunday the county recorded 29 new positive cases out of 5,255 tests.
In a statement, she said it was the lowest rate the county had seen.
"The County also has the lowest number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations, 57, since the pandemic began," Curran said.
The hot, steamy weather on Sunday sent crowds flocking to parks and beaches across Long Island, which have limited capacity due to social distancing guidelines. Field 3 at Robert Moses State Park was closed by 9:30 a.m., with the entire park closing by 1 p.m.
Bellone said he had not heard of widespread problems with people wearing masks or social distancing at area beaches.
Also on Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer called on the Trump administration to extend the COVID-19 public health emergency it declared in late January, saying New York State could lose billions of dollars for hospitals, nutrition support, contact tracing and other programs if the emergency declaration is allowed to expire next month.
State and local departments of health will also lose the ability to implement aggressive steps to combat the virus if the public health emergency declared by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar expires on July 25, according to Schumer (D-NY).
Schumer said more than $300 million in federal health care dollars were dispersed across the state just last week, part of the $2.5 billion secured for New York as part of the Families First Coronavirus stimulus package.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
FEMA had also diverted more than $1.1 billion to New York under the state’s COVID Major Disaster Declaration, Schumer said. Should the public health emergency end, FEMA has indicated that the funds flowing from the Disaster Relief Fund will also stop.
“We don’t have much time,” Schumer said. “We know Donald Trump was not reliable when it came to dealing with COVID-19 and the economic problems it caused.”