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COVID-19 testing of Cuomo relatives in spotlight

COVID-19 testing of Cuomo relatives in spotlight 1

Assembly probe to look at latest Cuomo revelation

The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that the Cuomo administration arranged for his relatives and other well-connected associates to get special access to COVID-19 testing by the state last spring as the virus was exploding in New York. The Post also reported that those samples were processed immediately by the state, even jumping over other samples at a time when testing capacity was limited.

“Matters that have come up will certainly receive some attention,” Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine said. “But the investigation cannot be distracted from its major challenge and won’t be.”

The committee has hired an investigative law firm to examine sexual harassment claims against Cuomo by former staffers, whether Cuomo withheld total death counts of nursing home residents from COVID-19, and a lawsuit that claimed the administration forced builders of the Mario Cuomo Bridge to make changes that would jeopardize safety.

“The investigation focuses on the three major areas we have been assigned to investigate,” Lavine told Newsday. “To be sure, there will be some measure of consideration for everything else that must necessarily be investigated.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the latest claim is another one of the “insincere efforts to rewrite the past.”

The number of new positives reported today: 701 in Nassau, 743 in Suffolk, 4,033 in New York City and 8,081 statewide.

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The chart below shows the percentages of New Yorkers who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and those who have been fully vaccinated.

Search a map of new cases and view charts showing the latest local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

Broadway’s waiting in the wings

September is the goal for re-opening New York City’s Broadway theater district, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

With schools fully reopening and more office workers expected to return to work, de Blasio said at his morning news conference, “Broadway comes back and this city writes a story for the ages. The comeback of New York City will be one of the greatest moments in our history and everyone will be an actor on that stage.”

De Blasio said that beginning in weeks, those who work on Broadway and Off-Broadway will be targeted with dedicated coronavirus vaccine and testing sites. The plan would not expand vaccine eligibility under state policy, however, and not all workers are eligible yet.

For performances, the precautions to be in place — such as social distancing, masking, and limiting food and beverage service — would depend on infection and vaccination rates, said Dr. Jay Varma, de Blasio’s senior adviser on the pandemic.

COVID vaccination record for state

For the first time, New York administered more than 200,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines in a 24-hour period, Cuomo said Thursday.

The 202,123 doses set a record for the state, which is racing to vaccinate as many people as it can before more contagious variants of the virus take root.

The update came on the same day President Joe Biden announced in his first news conference as president that he is raising the national inoculation goal to 200 million vaccines by the end of his first 100 days in office.

The state is now administering more than one million doses a week, Cuomo said, and has injected 8.2 million doses so far, though many are part of a two-dose regimen.

Tiny bar’s liquor license suspended

Taped behind the front door of Bar Petite in Huntington are four sheets, end to end. They narrate a rocky tale: How on two successive Friday nights in late winter, state-appointed investigators found that the number of people inside the bar surpassed the occupancy allowed under COVID-era restrictions, in one case by a quotient of six.

A few days after that, Bar Petite’s liquor license was suspended by the New York State Liquor Authority, a penalty that has befallen dozens of other Long Island restaurants during the last year.

“I’m sure some people walk by and go, ‘Good, he got what he deserved,'” said owner John Conzone, 50, of the violations listed in the window of the bar, which remains open without alcohol. “But I wasn’t trying to be ‘that guy.’ It’s simple. If I had followed protocol, I would’ve been out of business last March.”

Bar Petite, on the northern edge of Huntington Village, lives up to its name: There are 15 seats inside, nine of them at the bar itself. It was limited to 50% capacity under a Cuomo executive order until just last week.

Key points for companies’ returns to the office

As more vaccines get distributed and restrictions loosen, companies will be faced with the choice of bringing back more workers to their offices.

But it’s far from business as usual, and they’ll have to weigh some serious issues including deciding who will return, how they’ll adhere to safety and distancing, and navigating possible pushback from employees not wanting to return, experts say.

“I think every employer that is trying to return to normal should develop a return-to-work strategy ahead of time,” says David Mahoney, a partner and chair of the labor and employment group at SilvermanAcampora in Jericho.

This should include considerations such as physical distancing, safety measures and even customer and visitor contact policies, he says.

As a first step, Mahoney says, firms should start with “trying to find nondiscriminatory ways of deciding who to bring back and when.”

More to know

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits in the U.S. fell sharply last week to 684,000, the fewest since the pandemic erupted a year ago.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said her administration is “seizing this once-in-a-century opportunity to come back stronger than we ever imagined,” but acknowledged the hardships of the past year in her “State of the County” address Wednesday night.

The State Senate on Wednesday gave final legislative approval to repealing a law that has provided hospitals and nursing homes immunity from all but the most egregious malpractice during the pandemic. The bill would become law when and if Cuomo signs it.

AstraZeneca, which is in an extraordinary public dispute with American officials, insists that its COVID-19 vaccine is strongly effective even after counting additional illnesses in its U.S. study.

A team of international and Chinese scientists is poised to report on its joint search for the origins of the coronavirus that sparked the pandemic after its detection in China. Theories here.

New York City FC will split its home matches between its traditional home venue and that of its cross-river rival for the second straight season.

News for you

When will it be safe to travel again? In a Newsday Live webinar Wednesday, experts Anne Lischwe and Dr. Matthew Projansky agreed that if you’ve been vaccinated, wear a mask and maintain social distancing and hygiene protocols, you’re probably going to be OK. Especially if you travel domestically by car or personal vehicle with others in your safety bubble.

“Animal, Vegetable, Junk.” Next week author Mark Bittman joins the Newsday Live Author Series and Long Island LitFest to talk about his work, career and new book with that title. Sign up here for the Wednesday night event.

Basics, cash cushion, “near-cash fortress”? How can you spend your third stimulus check wisely? Advice here.

Plus: Brunch, like so many things, has changed because of all this. Brunch box to go?

Sign up for text messages to get the most important coronavirus news and information.

Commentary

We must start planning for a permanent pandemic. Andreas Kluth writes for Bloomberg Opinion: For the past year, an assumption — sometimes explicit, often tacit — has informed almost all our thinking about the pandemic: At some point, it will be over, and then we’ll go “back to normal.”

This premise is almost certainly wrong. COVID-19, protean and elusive as it is, may become our permanent enemy, like the flu but worse. And even if it peters out eventually, our lives and routines will by then have changed irreversibly. Going “back” won’t be an option; the only way is forward. But to what, exactly?

Most epidemics disappear once populations achieve herd immunity and the pathogen has too few vulnerable bodies available as hosts for its self-propagation. This herd protection comes about through the combination of natural immunity in people who’ve recovered from infection and vaccination of the remaining population.

In the case of COVID-19, however, recent developments suggest that we may never achieve herd immunity. Keep reading.

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