State, Region’s COVID-19 Cases Diminishing as Reopening Accelerates

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Less than 2 percent of New Yorkers getting tested for COVID-19 since the middle of last week are testing positive, helping to slow virus-related hospitalizations and deaths since the earliest days of the crisis.

Of 58,054 tests administered statewide on Sunday, there were 702 positives, a rate of 1.2 percent, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. That follows the three-day period of June 4-6 where the percentage of positive test result declined each day from 1.6 percent last Thursday.

Over the four-day span the state conducted more than 163,000 tests.

Cuomo said the results highlight how measures such as social distancing, wearing face masks and having gradual and measured re-openings around the state have been effective.

“These guidelines work,” Cuomo said. “They have been enacted in every other region in the state. These other regions have entered Phase 1, followed these guidelines and there has been no spike. We know that it works if it’s followed.”

COVID-19 deaths statewide fell to 35 on Friday before ticking back up to 45 on Saturday. In Westchester on Saturday there were no deaths for the first time since the first half of March, said County Executive George Latimer. On Sunday, active cases in the county dropped to 951.

The governor made his remarks on the 100th consecutive day of his daily briefings that started Feb. 29 with the first recorded cases in the state. A few days later there was the first New York hotspot in New Rochelle, which was one of the first in the nation.

It comes during a critical week in the state’s reopening plan. New York City, which has been battered by the coronavirus, entered Phase 1 on Monday, while the Mid-Hudson region, which includes Westchester and Putnam counties, are advancing to Phase 2 on Tuesday. Long Island is scheduled to start Phase 2 on Wednesday.

Phase 2 allows for a far greater level of commerce, allowing nearly all retail and professional offices, such as real estate agencies, lawyers and accountants, to resume with occupancy limited to no more than 50 percent.

Cuomo expressed confidence that moving forward was the correct decision.

“Why are we reopening? Because these numbers say we can,” he explained. “There’s no guess, there’s no ideology. Based on the numbers we can reopen.”

Both Cuomo and Latimer remained wary but hopeful on Monday that the outpouring of demonstrators at rallies throughout the state and across Westchester protesting racial injustice will not cause a spike in the number of cases.

Latimer mentioned that at the protests he’s attended or watched, the vast majority of people are wearing face coverings.

“I think we’re all looking to see what the impact the accumulation of people in close quarters will represent,” Latimer said.

“Am I concerned? Yes. Do I automatically assume that we’ll see a spike? No,” he later added. “We’ll see what happens.”

Cuomo said he was also concerned with whether cases will jump and urged anyone who is attending a protest to get themselves tested. There are about 35,000 tests that will be available in New York City alone every day. He said it’s also critical for the state’s residents to remain vigilant.

“New Yorkers bent the curve by being smart,” Cuomo said. “We’re celebrating, we’re back, we’re reopening, we’re excited, our mojo’s back, our energy’s back. Great. Stay smart.”

Easing of Restrictions

Last week there was a steady stream of new announcements that added to the Phase 2 guidelines. Outdoor restaurant seating will be permitted starting on Tuesday as long as the establishments adhere to social distancing and masks are worn by employees and patrons when they are not seated. Restaurants must also follow local zoning and permitting regulations.

The state announced that day camps may reopen as early as June 29, while swimming pools can operate this summer with a maximum 50 percent occupancy while distancing and safety protocols are followed.

Another eased restriction are gatherings at houses of worship, which are now permitted with attendance capped at no more than 25 percent of capacity.

During the past week, Latimer also announced that the popular Bicycle Sundays on the Bronx River Parkway will continue during July and August. Typically, Bicycle Sundays, where the parkway is closed to vehicular traffic, allows resident to enjoy biking between White Plains and Yonkers in May, June and September after Labor Day.

The northern end of the bike route has been extended from Main Street in White Plains to the County Center.

Latimer said that starting June 15, Metro-North’s three lines will increase service to about 60 percent of a normal weekday schedule, signaling the need for more trains during the gradual reopening.

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