‘Next few days will tell,’ governor says of COVID-19 spread during holidays

State officials are taking a wait-and-see approach to assess the most recent COVID-19 data, which shows a sharp increase in the positive test rate directly after Christmas.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a media briefing Monday that it’s likely too soon to tie the increase directly to the holiday.

“We’re studying what the uptick in that number actually means,” he said. “If you look around the country, you’ve seen significant upticks in just the past couple of days.”

The overall statewide positivity rate climbed to 8.33% on a seven-day average. On Sunday, that same figure reported was 5.85%.

Officials have been cautioning people to be smart leading up to the holidays and warning that a spike in cases could soon follow. But the governor said to see such a quick spike within a couple days of Christmas may be more a product of who was getting tested.

Prior to the holidays, he said, more people appeared to be getting tested as a precaution ahead of traveling. Now, right after Christmas, the number of people getting tested has dramatically decreased. People who are showing symptoms represent a higher percentage of people getting tested now, the governor said, which was evident by more tests proportionally from urgent care clinics where people feeling sick are more likely to go.

“We’ll see what the numbers say over the next few days,” the governor said as to the full extent of the holiday spike in cases. “That will explain if this is a circumstantial situation post-Christmas, less people getting tested and they have a higher positivity because the people who are getting tested are symptomatic. Or was there spread pre-Christmas that is actually being evidenced now?”

There were just under 125,000 COVID-19 tests on Sunday in New York, whereas late last week that number was up over 225,000 prior to Christmas.

The number of statewide hospitalizations increased by 376 on Sunday and now stands at 7,559. That number has been steadily trending up for weeks.

There were 114 deaths linked to COVID-19 reported in New York Sunday. There are 1,334 COVID patients on Long Island and the region’s seven-day positivity rate stands at 6.7%.

Mr. Cuomo also provided an update on vaccinations. Around 140,000 New Yorkers have already received one vaccine. He said that number puts New York first in the country, just ahead of Texas, California and Florida.

Another 259,000 vaccines are expected this week with 139,400 from Pfizer and 119,600 from Moderna.

Long Island will have received 126,600 vaccines by the end of the week. The governor said that number represents how many have been delivered, not necessarily administered yet.

The current priority expansion this week is to now include urgent care center employees, individual administering COVID-19 vaccines, including local health department staff and residents of Office of Addiction Services and Supports facilities.

“Congregate facilities are problematic,” Mr. Cuomo said of OASAS facilities.

The vaccine distribution will continue for high-risk hospital health care workers, federally qualified health center employees, EMS, coroners, medical examiners and certain funeral workers.

Next week, the criteria is expected to be expanded to ambulatory care health care workers and public-facing public health workers.