N.Y.’s New Virus Cases Exceed 2,000 for First Time Since May

New York state posted more than 2,000 new Covid-19 cases for the first time since May, a surge that officials are desperate to head off as they prepare to distribute vaccines in the new year.

Of the nearly 125,000 tests conducted statewide on Tuesday, 1.6% were positive, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday during a briefing in Albany. Excluding hot spots resulted in a 1.4% positive average.

“Though we made a lot of progress, the numbers are still not acceptable,” he said.

New York, the early epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, is battling a resurgence in areas where mask-wearing and social-distance compliance has been lax. As recently as mid-August, daily cases statewide were averaging around 600 and the positive rate was nearly half what it is now. At its current pace, New York will surpass 500,000 cases early next week. Hospitalizations of 950 are the highest since June 25 and have doubled in the past month.

The positivity rate in the hot spots, many in Brooklyn, Queens and Rockland County, was 6.6% as of Tuesday. Cuomo on Wednesday said he would ease restrictions for some areas that have made improvements, while most would remain the same for the time being. The state is also now focusing on an increase in cases along the border with Pennsylvania, Cuomo said.

Cuomo said he doesn’t foresee a need for statewide closures, as long as the state continues to quell the rate of infections in micro-clusters. The state’s positivity rate remains among the lowest in the country, he said.

“The viral rate is increasing because it’s fall,” Cuomo said, noting that the season added a number of additional factors, including the reopening of schools, flu season and an increase in indoor activity.

The risk is rising even as officials ready for eventual relief.

Vaccine Plans

Globally, there are about 200 experimental vaccines in development, according to the World Health Organization. Of those, 44 have entered human studies.

In the U.S., experimental shots fromPfizer Inc. in partnership with BioNTech SE,AstraZeneca Plc with the University of Oxford,Moderna Inc., and Johnson & Johnson are among the vanguard, having entered into large, late-stage studies that could produce data before year-end that could lead to approval.

In New York City, which was ravaged earlier this year in the first wave of the pandemic, officials are beginning to plan for wide distribution of a Covid-19 virus vaccine next year, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Acting on state recommendations, the mayor said the city would prioritize delivery to health-care, front-line and essential workers and those whose medical conditions or age makes them most vulnerable.

Pharmacies, urgent-care clinics, public and private hospitals and current Covid testing sites will be used as inoculation centers for the general population in a second phase, the mayor said.

— With assistance by Bill Austin, and Henry Goldman

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