By Kate Lisa
Johnson Newspaper Corp.
NEW YORK — The state’s average COVID-19 positivity rate declined for the 24th straight day Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, as coronavirus infections and hospitalizations reflect a continuing decline and nearly 2 million New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.
The state’s seven-day average COVID-19 infection rate declined to 4.8% Monday — a flattening of the statewide virus trajectory that has gradually decreased since Jan. 8.
New York’s average infection rate was 5.35% Friday.
“That is actually very good news,” Cuomo said of the average COVID rate Monday afternoon during a briefing in his Manhattan office about the impending nor’easter. “That is 24 straight days of decline...COVID numbers are coming down — even in places highly problematic in the state.”
New York’s COVID positivity peaked Jan. 4 at a seven-day average of 7.94%.
National and global health experts warned officials to expect increased infections, hospitalizations and deaths due to the novel coronavirus last fall, culminating with spikes through New Year’s Day.
Of the state’s 10 regions, COVID-19 positivity remains the highest Monday in Long Island at 6.1%, with the Mid-Hudson region close behind at 6.03%.
New COVID infections in the Capital Region declined to an average of 4.9% Monday, down from about 5% over the weekend and close to 6% through most of last week.
Virus infections in the North Country continue to flatten to 5.68%, down from more than 6% last week.
New York City, the state’s original epicenter of the virus during the initial outbreak last March, had a 5.1% positivity Monday. The Bronx has the most elevated infection rate at 6.6%, according to the governor’s office.
The Finger Lakes region, which has had the greatest number of New Yorkers hospitalized with coronavirus complications for at least a month, saw infections decline to 3.86%, down from 4.1% Friday.
Statewide hospitalizations increased 27 patients to 8,003 New Yorkers, after a decrease of 200 patients Sunday.
COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths also continue to flatten alongside the state’s rate of new infections, but reflect a slower decline because of the expected lag between new cases and virus patients becoming critically ill.
Nearly 2 million New Yorkers have received at least one of two required COVID-19 vaccine injections to date. State-run vaccination sites in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area postponed vaccine appointments Monday because of the nor’easter, which is expected to dump up to 2 feet of snow on the city and up to 18 inches upstate.
Upstate vaccination sites and appointments are not affected.
The state continues to receive about 300,000 dosages of the COVID vaccine each week. State and county officials have butt heads over the last several weeks to iron out logistics in vaccinating the 7.1 million eligible health care workers, police, firefighters and other first responders, teachers and people over age 65.
New York has exhausted its vaccine supply after receiving about 250,000 vaccine doses from the federal government for the last two weeks.
Officials distribute the supply by population to each area of the state, with 21% of each tranche slated for health workers, 27% reserved for eligible essential workers and 52% for residents ages 65 and older.
“It’s not really a supply issue, it’s really a production issue,” Cuomo said. “We are basically exhausting our week-to-week allocation waiting for more supply from the federal government....That’s the disconnect and the confusion and attention. Seven million people looking for a vaccine — you only get 300,000 per week, so we’re very careful about who we give out the doses to.”
Many New Yorkers remain eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine, but have struggled to reserve an appointment.
“It is a national problem and an international problem that there’s just not enough vaccine,” said Cuomo, adding President Joe Biden’s administration is working to ramp up supply.
“They have made progress,” the governor continued. “I believe they’re going to make more progress going forward here. Whatever we get, we will distribute and we will distribute as soon as we get it. We just have to get it.”
The state has not detected cases of the Brazilian or South African COVID-19 variants to date, Cuomo said.
“What is a potential problem if one of these strains, these new variants of interest, hits and is problematic?” the governor asked Monday. “You could see that curve change. Nobody can answer that question.”
Cuomo regularly speaks with global health experts about the emergence of the COVID-19 mutations. The governor has repeatedly equated the push to vaccinate New Yorkers before a new virus strain takes hold as a footrace.
“It’s a global problem and nobody knows,” Cuomo said. “Nobody can tell you definitively what the mutation of this virus will be. No one will tell you how fast it will take off. The [Centers For Disease Control & Prevention] has said it will be a predominant strain and it is more transmittable, but we’ll know when we encounter it and whatever we encounter we will be ready to mange. But right now, that number is headed in the right direction.”
The state Health Department has tested a few thousand New Yorkers who received traditional COVID-19 diagnostic tests for potentially more contagious or more lethal variants of the disease. Dozens of cases of the 70% more transmissible strain from the United Kingdom have been discovered.
The state reported 141 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 complications Sunday — a decrease of more than 170 daily virus fatalities through most of January.
Cuomo thanked all New Yorkers for taking the proper precautions, as a whole, to lower the state’s overall COVID infection rate and prevent overwhelming the hospital system through the holiday surge.
“New Yorkers did a good job of keeping that number down low,” the governor said. “Many other states’ infection rates went higher and they’re in serious trouble. This evidences the fact New Yorkers get it and New Yorkers care about each other....How we act determines how that virus spreads, and bringing down that surge, that’s all due to the good work of New Yorkers.”
For the most up-to-date information about the state’s vaccine distribution and availability, visit covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/covid-19-vaccine-tracker