ALBANY — Visitors will be permitted in New York hospitals and group homes at the end of the week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday, as the state’s coronavirus infection rate remains the lowest in the nation.

Statewide hospitals are allowed to accept visitors immediately at their discretion. Group homes certified by the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities can allow visitation starting Friday. All visitors are required to wear masks, appropriate personal protective equipment and be subject to symptom and temperature checks.

“This was always a balance of public health versus the personal relationships and people in hospitals who desperately want to see loved ones,” Cuomo said Tuesday during a pandemic briefing in the state Capitol. “Obviously, we need to be careful.”

Visitors remain prohibited in state nursing homes after more than 8,000 deaths at more than 600 nursing home and adult-care facilities statewide following a controversial March 25 state Department of Health order directing nursing homes to readmit COVID-19-positive residents from hospitals. Officials have said nursing homes could not discriminate against admitting residents for a health condition.

Cuomo has stood by the decision, saying the state implemented the guidance from federal health agency Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

“We’re still studying it, they’re still at a high risk,” the governor said of nursing home residents. “When the health department advises it’s safe, we’ll do it. I understand the demand, I understand the desire, but the health department doesn’t think the reward justifies the risk at this point.”

State officials are considering a pilot visitation program in nursing homes, state Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said.

“We are looking at all options,” he added.

The governor has received criticism for banning hospital and group home visitation during the pandemic, as some have argued people with physical or mental disabilities need a personal advocate.

“I think everyone should have an advocate,” Cuomo said. “I don’t think they should have an advocate that could kill them or someone else.”

The U.S. Open will be held in Queens without fans from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13. The United States Tennis Association will take precautions to protect players and staff, including robust testing, cleaning and disinfecting protocols, extra locker room space for social distancing and dedicated housing and transportation, according to the governor’s office.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projected Monday 149,690 Americans will die from COVID-19 by August as the virus continues to spread in 21 states and Puerto Rico — about 15,000 fatalities more than the research center’s May 4 estimate, and more than 75,000 than its April 17 estimate.

This week, IHME increased its estimate to 201,129 U.S. coronavirus deaths by October, or up about 18% from 169,890. The IHME projection is the White House’s preferred model and is supported by the Gates Foundation.

“They reopened quickly, they did not have the same [reopening] phases... they’re seeing the numbers of cases go up,” Cuomo said. “That is a fact. ... Now we actually know what happened. Phased reopening is better.”

State tax receipts in May were down $766.9 million or 19.7% from the previous year, according to the monthly state cash report released Tuesday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

“With an economy still suffocated by a global pandemic, the state’s finances took another serious hit in the month of May,” DiNapoli said. “We are now clearly seeing the recession’s impact on tax receipts. As we continue to slowly reopen the economy, it’s critical that Washington act on our call for more federal aid.”

State officials have said New York faces a $61 billion deficit over four years because of the coronavirus pandemic.

New York continues to have the lowest COVID-19 transmission rate in the U.S. at 0.77%, or one person with the virus is infecting about 0.77% of another person, or less than one, indicating a decline.

As of Tuesday, Hawaii had the highest rate of transmission at 1.17%, with Montana and Arizona tied for second-highest at 1.14%. Alaska, Vermont and Arkansas reported similar infection rates earlier this week.

A random COVID-19 antibody test sample of 12,000 New Yorkers shows about 13.4% of New York’s population has been infected or exposed to the coronavirus. The sample, taken from May 1 through June 13, is 1.1% higher than the state’s initial antibody results taken in April, which revealed a population infection rate of 12.3%.

The updated antibody test results show New Yorkers were successful in flattening the curve, Cuomo said.

“Statewide, we’ve gone up a point,” the governor said, gesturing to a table of regional COVID-19 infection rates. “These numbers are telling and significant because we watch the numbers on a day-to-day basis, but we watch them geographically.”

Global public health experts cleared the Capital District to enter phase 3 Wednesday.

Officials continue to monitor the number of daily, new positive COVID-19 cases across New York. The state had 631 new positive virus cases Monday, or 1.04% of tests conducted, bringing the statewide total to 384,575 cases.

The state’s 10 regions had between 0.2 to 1.7% positive virus tests Monday of New York’s 50,000-plus diagnostic tests conducted each day.

The state saw 25 virus-related deaths Monday, including 16 in hospitals and nine in nursing homes. The state’s daily death toll has continued a flattening decline for several weeks, but officials do not anticipate the figure will drop lower.

“We’re at a number that is so low it may even be statistically questionable,” Cuomo said. “When you’re down to 25, you’re talking about literally how doctors decide a cause of death in some situations that may have multiple reasons behind it.”

Statewide coronavirus hospitalizations declined to 1,538 patients Tuesday, down 70, according to the governor’s office.

Cuomo continued his daily lecture about the importance of wearing face coverings in public and maintaining social distancing.

“Stay the course — we were right,” he said. “‘Stay the course’ means you have to stay smart and responsible. We all have to stay responsible.”

To see where each region stands on reopening and the complete county breakdown of COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide, view the COVID-19 map and tracker at hudsonvalley360.com/site/covid19.html.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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