By GREGORY ZELLER //
Welcome back to the brink, Long Island. And you might want to rethink those Thanksgiving plans.
Coronavirus cases are spiking – the New York State Department of Health on Wednesday reported 4,820 new statewide cases (recorded Tuesday), with exponential proliferation in numerous color-coded “microclusters.”
Businesses and residents, meanwhile, continue to flout Albany’s pandemic regulations – reports of public and private gatherings exceeding state-mandated occupancy limits flood the news.
With schools closing left and right on Long Island and elsewhere, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has dropped the hammer. On Wednesday, Cuomo dialed back New York’s reopening pace, placing tough new COVID-19 restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms and even residential gatherings.
First, the frightening numbers: Nassau and Suffolk counties recorded a combined 814 new cases on Tuesday, second statewide only to New York City’s 1,731. Three Long Islanders were among the 21 New Yorkers to die Tuesday from COVID-19 complications.
Around numerous statewide microclusters, matters are worse: The seven-day new-positive percentages (among those actually tested) inside all color-coded “focus zones” is nearly 5 percent, according to the Department of Health, with new-positive rates inside zones in Broom, Chemung, Erie and Westchester counties exceeding 6 and 7 percent.
Nationally, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are hitting record highs, with some scientists predicting the darkest days for the pandemic – which has already killed 247,000 Americans and 1.3 million globally – are still to come.
Of the 165,300 COVID tests administered across the Empire State on Tuesday, about 3 percent came back positive – the last straw for Cuomo, who noted Wednesday, “In New York, we follow the science.”
And the science dictates that, effective Nov. 13, restaurants and bars licensed by the New York State Liquor Authority must close to in-person customers between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., as must gyms and fitness centers. Restaurants will still be permitted to provide delivery and curbside pick-up services after 10 p.m., but cannot serve alcohol to go.
Cuomo admitted that Albany follows the science “more rigorously, I believe, than any state in the nation” – and insists that’s why New York, among the very first U.S. epicenters of the global pandemic, has “been successful in reducing the spread … and been a step ahead of COVID.”
“This is the calibration that we’ve talked about,” the governor said. “Increase economic activity, watch the positivity rate, positivity rate starts to go up, back off on the economic activity.
“Bars and restaurants are one of the identified spreaders,” he added.
Piling insult upon economic injury, the governor also announced that indoor and outdoor gatherings at private residences will henceforth be limited to 10 people – meaning if Aunt Joan is bringing the kids on Thanksgiving, you’ve suddenly got a problem.
The restrictions on residential activities may seem draconian, particularly at the start of the holiday season, but – along with gyms and fitness centers – supersized private-residence parties have been proven by contact tracing to be selfish, shortsighted superspreaders.
“Halloween parties, football parties – just let’s get together and have a party – this is … one of the three great spreaders, as identified by our contact tracing,” the governor said.
The new measures bring New York in line with restrictions activated by neighboring states New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. And while Thanksgiving hosts with 11 guests should not expect a knock at the door, the governor is calling on local governments to help Albany enforce the new rules – particularly when it comes to crowds in pubs.
“We went through this with bars and restaurants once before,” Cuomo said “We put rules in place, there was widespread lack of compliance and … we then had to put together a state task force to do the enforcement.
“This is statewide,” he added. “I need local enforcement to do it, because the rules are only as good as the individual discipline and the government enforcement.
“The states surrounding us have done a thing that I think is intelligent, and we’re going to follow suit.”