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New York focusing efforts on COVID-19 'micro-clusters'; LIU potential cases grow

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday that New

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday that New York's COVID-19 virus numbers are low compared to what other states are seeing.   Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

This story was reported by Bart Jones, Carol Polsky and Gregg Sarra. It was written by Jones.

New York is doing better than many other states in controlling the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday, even as the state continues to focus on targeted areas that he called "micro-clusters" or hot spots.

Meanwhile, the number of students placed in isolation due to COVID-19 at LIU Post grew to 22, and another 85 were in quarantine Monday as the fallout grew from an off-campus party attended by athletic teams.

Those in isolation include people who have tested positive, those suspected of having COVID-19 and awaiting results and others who are ill with the symptoms. Those in quarantine may have come in contact with an infected person.

At LIU Post, where only athletic team members are regularly tested on campus for COVID-19, uneasiness grew Monday on the Brookville campus over the extent of the outbreak. Many students opted to take classes via Zoom.

The college said 14 positive COVID-19 cases have emerged from off-campus parties attended by members of its athletic teams.

Professor Heather Parrott, chair of the social sciences department, said only two students attended her Monday class in person, while 38 attended via Zoom. Generally, she said, half the class attends in person.

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"Without surveillance testing, we have no way of knowing the actual number of cases on campus," she said. "Students and faculty are increasingly scared to be on campus."

The Connetquot school district also reported two positive cases in a letter to the community Monday; a staff member at Sycamore Avenue Elementary School, last in school Oct. 8, and a student at Oakdale Bohemia Middle School, last in school Oct. 6.

Both were quarantining since those dates and the district was consulting with the Suffolk County Health Department on Tuesday about any "potential extended quarantine periods," the letter said.

Statewide, the percentage of new positives continued to hover around 1%.

Cuomo said the state's seven-day average of 1.17% for the positive rate is the envy of states like Florida, Texas and North Carolina, among about a dozen others whose rates surpass even the hot spot areas in New York.

"Most of these other states would celebrate if they had 3%. Three percent in a lot of states would be a safe zone. In New York, it’s a micro-cluster, and we are going to be doing more of this" to prevent further spread, Cuomo told reporters in a telephone conference call.

As an example, he said the recent average statewide levels of positivity were 7.6% in Texas, 6% in North Carolina and 11% in Florida.

The hot spot areas, concentrated in Brooklyn, Queens, Rockland and Orange counties, were tracked at 3.7% on Sunday. The state positivity rate for COVID-19 test results for Sunday, without including those "micro-clusters," was 1.07%. The rate was 1.1% with the hot spots included.

The hot spot areas include neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish populations, and Cuomo said the state's push for new restrictions for gatherings, schools and business activities on those areas has nothing to do with religion, but rather with responding to a public health crisis.

Across the state, 878 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, representing an increase of 58 patients. Twelve New Yorkers died Sunday from coronavirus-related causes.

The number of new confirmed cases from tests completed Sunday was 65 in Nassau County, 62 in Suffolk County and 393 in New York City. Statewide the figure was 1,029.

The level of positivity for COVID-19 in testing completed Sunday was 1.2% on Long Island and 1.1% n New York City.

LIU athletic programs on pause

At LIU, the school’s COVID dashboard reported three positives on Friday, 11 on Saturday and seven on Sunday, she said, although only the latest number, seven, appears now. Positives that were reported earlier than the latest two-week window — currently Oct. 11-24 — disappear from the dashboard. They do show up on the state’s COVID-19 Report Card website reporting results of COVID-19 testing at schools throughout the state.

Asked if the college is suspending games of the teams due to the spread of infection, or penalizing the athletic teams in some way, LIU said in a statement, "All athletic programs have been paused for one week, and we are considering further action."

Freshman running back Jaden AlfanoStJohn of Westhampton Beach said he left campus this weekend and will be taking his classes remotely.

"I’m doing everything I can to stay safe, wear my mask and follow our protocols," AlfanoStJohn said.

Some professors were concerned about exposure to the virus, particularly if they had students who tested positive or who were in another class where someone else did.

"How do you know when you shouldn’t be concerned?" said Barbara Fowles, a professor in the communications and film department. "How do you know when they are through contact tracing so that I know for sure that someone who was exposed hasn’t exposed me or other students who haven’t been told yet?"

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