‘Stay smart’ and protect New York’s low coronavirus infection level, say

This story was reported by Michael Gormley, Bart Jones and David Reich-Hale. It was written by Jones.

New York State marked four straight weeks of COVID-19 testing levels below 1%, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday, as casinos and schools statewide and malls in New York City geared up to reopen in some capacity next week.

Long Island inched above the statewide level, with 1.4% positives out of 13,304 test results from Nassau and Suffolk counties on Thursday. The region’s seven-day average for coronavirus cases is at the 1% mark for positives, according to state figures.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Friday marked 100 days since the region began reopening businesses and activities after the pandemic struck, and she reminded residents to continue observing precautions against COVID-19 through the holiday weekend.

“Our residents have done an outstanding job containing the virus,” she said in a statement. “By following the common-sense guidelines and expanding access to testing, Nassau has maintained a positivity rate of around 1% this summer despite the resumption of higher-risk industries and activities. We beat the odds and proved that it’s possible to reopen without causing an outbreak. Today is another day that demonstrates that success — with 84 residents testing positive of 7,265 tested.”

She added that “COVID-19 outbreaks have consistently been linked to large parties, especially indoors, where little to no precautions were taken. If you’re celebrating with friends and family this holiday weekend, please stay smart, be safe and look out for each other.”

Out of 93,395 test results completed Thursday, 864, or 0.92%, were confirmed positive, Cuomo said in a statement. The level of new confirmed cases was 1.4% on Long Island and 0.7% in New York City.

The number of new confirmed cases was 84 in Nassau County, 96 in Suffolk County, and 325 in New York City.

Nassau County spokeswoman Vicki DiStefano said health department officials said the positivity rate has been consistent despite the day-to-day fluctuation.

The increased level of positive cases on Long Island is a concern, said Dr. David Battinelli, chief medical officer at Northwell Health.

“Now we need to pay attention and see what the next few days bring,” Battinelli said. “But we have to start paying attention. As kids go back to school, and there are parties, this is what you’re going to get.”

He added that Northwell expects to see sporadic outbreaks.

All of SUNY testing for virus

Meanwhile in Albany, State University of New York Chancellor James Malatras ordered all colleges in the system to start testing for the virus and to monitor cases of COVID-19 on their campuses.

SUNY can test every student in the 64-campus system every two weeks, a spokeswoman said.

The push for campus testing comes after SUNY Oneonta sent all students home, canceling in-person classes for the fall semester due to a cluster of coronavirus cases on campus, with up to 389 people testing positive as of Thursday.

“By launching immediate surveillance testing on every campus, we are giving ourselves the best shot to identify the presence of this virus before it can spread further across a campus, possibly infecting hundreds of students, and forcing us to roll back the in-person offerings so many of our students find critical,” Malatras said.

‘Protect our progress’

Five people died of coronavirus-related causes on Thursday, down from nearly 800 a day at the height of the pandemic in April, while 428 people were hospitalized with the virus — far below the peak of nearly 19,000.

“Thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers across the state, New York has now gone four straight weeks with an infection rate below one percent,” Cuomo said in a statement.

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