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New York's low level of coronavirus cases 'no mean feat,' Cuomo says

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday it's "no

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday it's "no mean feat" that New York has kept its daily level of new coronavirus infections low, amid the gradual reopening of its economy and institutions. Credit: Sipa USA / Lev Radin via AP

New York on Wednesday marked its 26th straight day of COVID-19 positives remaining below 1%, despite a high level of testing across the state, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

Efforts to enforce social distancing and other rules to prevent the virus' spread continued, with 1,444 establishments visited by State Liquor Authority and State Troopers — and three of those businesses in Suffolk County found "not in compliance" with coronavirus mitigation laws. Officials did not immediately identify them.

The state’s COVID-19 level was 0.80% in results delivered Tuesday, with 708 people confirmed positive for the virus out of 88,447 tests.

Five people died in the state of coronavirus-related causes Tuesday, including one in Suffolk, and 445 were hospitalized. At the pandemic’s height in April, nearly 800 people a day were dying from the virus, and close to 19,000 were hospitalized.

"Defeating COVID-19 requires a shared commitment among all New Yorkers to wear masks, socially distance and wash hands, and I thank them for listening to state guidance and taking social action to get us to this point today. Twenty-six straight days with an infection rate below 1 percent is no mean feat," Cuomo said in a statement.

He warned against complacency, while the state requires the self-quarantining of travelers from states and territories in an advisory list.

"However, high case levels throughout the country are storm clouds on the horizon, and we have to stay vigilant in partnership with the enforcement of local governments.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Wednesday that the county reached a new high for completed coronavirus tests in a day, with 10,917 checked, and still registering a low of 84 positives, or 0.8%.

Suffolk County had 55 new positives, and New York City had 264 confirmed new cases from testing results on Tuesday. The level of confirmed infections from daily testing on Long Island was 0.8% and in New York City 0.7%.

That progress, Curran said, needs to be protected.

"Let’s not take our current position for granted. We can keep our positive momentum by continuing to stay vigilant, and doing what got us here," she said. "Let’s keep wearing our masks and keep social distancing, and Long Island can continue to be a model for the nation."

Considering indoor dining in NYC

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that the city aims to announce by the end of September whether to permit indoor restaurant dining to return.

“Folks just want a final answer as soon as possible so they can make their plans up or down. I think it’s our responsibly to give them as clear an answer in the month of September as possible of where we’re going,” de Blasio said at his daily news conference. “If there can be a timeline, if there can be a set of standards for reopening, we need to decide that in the next few weeks and announce it, whether it’s good news or bad news.”

Indoor dining has been banned in the city since the shutdown of nonessential businesses in the spring, amid concerns that congregating in close quarters could help spread the virus.

Although those restrictions have been lifted in the rest of the state, indoor dining has remained banned in the city. The city began permitting outdoor dining earlier this summer, including in parking spots and streets where it hadn’t been allowed before.

“We’ll keep looking at it. I think we owe the industry as clear an answer as humanly possible soon, but it’s always going to be about health and safety first,” de Blasio said of easing the indoor restrictions.

More than 300 other New York City restaurants are suing Cuomo, de Blasio and the New York Attorney General's Office for $2 million in damages, arguing the indoor-dining restrictions violate the owners' constitutional rights and put their businesses in jeopardy. The state said it is acting to protect residents from potential exposure to the virus.

With New York City schools' return to classroom instruction delayed until Sept. 21, 301 requests to use outdoor space for classes had been approved as of Wednesday afternoon, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said.

Schools can use courtyards, schoolyards, sports fields, adjoining streets that would be shut down to accommodate students, and nearby parks, de Blasio said. 

Looking forward, de Blasio acknowledged, it’s possible that classrooms and even whole schools could be closed if there are positive cases.

“God forbid, if you had specific outbreaks … you shut that school for a period of time. And then it comes back,” he said.

He added: “Once in a while, you're going to see a classroom where there's a case. Like we said, then that classroom goes down for 14 days. Then they come back. You have multiple cases simultaneously in different parts of the school. The school is assessed for at least 24 hours, shut and assessed for at least 24 hours.”

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