New York

Cuomo warns of holiday surge in COVID-19 cases

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Sunday. Credit: Governor's Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Sunday. Credit: Governor's Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday warned New Yorkers about a surge of new COVID-19 cases he expects over the coming weeks as the holiday season promises increased social activity.

But he said it ultimately falls to residents to limit gatherings, wear masks and social distance to control just how badly the virus spreads this holiday season.

“I believe the COVID rate will increase,” Cuomo said during a press conference Sunday. “The only question is how much and how fast.”

Public health experts have pointed to small social gatherings of family and friends as driving a recent rise in COVID-19 cases, especially as cold weather pushes people indoors, and with Thanksgiving just days away, Cuomo on Sunday said he was bracing for challenging weeks ahead.

“This is the challenging period,” Cuomo said of the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Cuomo said he expected any Thanksgiving-related uptick in cases to show itself in the testing numbers sometime between Dec. 1 and Dec. 10; he said he expected a Christmas and New Year’s uptick to show by mid-January, predicting it’s possible the state finds itself in dramatically worse shape by then.

“I would not be shocked if they said on Jan. 10… we are up at 7-8-9 percent (of testing showing positive cases),” Cuomo said during the press conference. “That could very easily happen if we are irresponsible.”

Meanwhile, the Albany County seven-day average infection rate stood at just over 3 percent on Sunday. If the county’s seven-day average stays at 3 percent or higher for 10 straight days, based on positive test results, the county will be the first in the Capital Region to reach the state’s “yellow precautionary zone,” which would impose increased health precautions and restrictions. There were 97 new cases in Albany County overnight, lifting the county’s seven-day average to 3.1 percent.

“We are in a second wave, it’s getting worse,” Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said during his own update Sunday. “What’s scaring us, quite frankly, is Thanksgiving is right around the corner.”

McCoy said in nearly all of the new cases health officials had been unable to trace the source of the infection, highlighting the difficulty of getting people to provide full information about their whereabouts to public health investigators.

“It’s alarming the mount of people that continue to say they don’t know how they were exposed or are not telling us where they were at,” McCoy said.

Schenectady County saw 11 new cases reported Saturday, after reporting 65 new cases Friday. The county’s seven-day average of 2.5 percent is still outside the 3 percent threshold needed to trigger new precautions.

Saratoga County reported over 60 new cases combined Friday and Saturday, with a seven-day positive average of just under 2 percent as of Saturday. Montgomery County, which falls under different state metrics than the more populous counties in the region, had a seven-day average of 2.9 percent on Saturday.

Like Cuomo, McCoy said the actions of residents in the Capital Region would determine how bad the current surge of cases gets and whether officials impose new restrictions on businesses.

“Stay home, do the right thing,” McCoy said. “Because if you don’t, we are going to shut down again.”

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