BUFFALO — Western New York will begin reopening Tuesday — becoming the state’s sixth region to do so — after hiring several hundred contact tracers overnight, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday.

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Dozens of officials from each of the state’s 62 counties will monitor COVID-19 hospitalization, death, infection, testing and contact tracing data for two weeks between each phase of the state’s four-phase reopening plan. 

“It is a formula — it is math, which is liberating because it takes the politics out of it,” Gov. Cuomo said Monday during a pandemic briefing at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. “It’s up to us. It’s up to you.”

Western New York needed to hire 352 contact tracers to reach its required 521 as of Sunday afternoon. County and other officials worked hard and completed the task and started training for the reopening as of Monday afternoon.

New York’s COVID-19 fatalities reached 21,995 on Monday — up from 21,750 on Saturday and 21,889 on Sunday. Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s online COVID-19 tracker, which includes probable virus deaths in its tally, listed the state’s virus death toll as 28,232 on Monday afternoon.

The state saw 106 virus-related deaths Sunday, including 83 in hospitals and 23 in nursing homes. The state’s death rate from the virus remains flat after totaling 139 fatalities Saturday, 157 on Friday and 132 on Thursday.

The state tested 1,439,557 people by Monday, revealing 351,371 total positive cases of COVID-19. New York’s hospitalization rates continued a downward trend to 5,840 patients Monday, down 57 overnight, according to the governor’s office.

Just over 370 new virus patients entered hospitals statewide on Sunday and Monday — a dip from last week’s daily average of 400 and an average of about 600 the previous week.

State testing labs have reserved a capacity of at least 35,000 diagnostic COVID-19 tests each day for nursing home facilities after Gov. Cuomo mandated nursing home and adult care facility staff be tested twice per week.

The state Department of Health will send 320,000 testing kits to more than 600 nursing homes statewide this week.

“I know the nursing home operators are not happy about this — I get it,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s very hard to administer. I understand that no other state is doing this. ...We’re going to do what we have to do to protect the lives of New Yorkers.” 

New York has more than 700 coronavirus testing sites statewide. Several drive-through testing sites can test up to 15,000 people each day, but only test 5,000. The state will partner with more than 60 CVS pharmacies across New York to conduct 50 or more tests each day.

Gov. Cuomo received a diagnostic COVID-19 swab test during Sunday’s briefing to demonstrate the test’s simplicity, he said, and encourage all New Yorkers to get one. On Monday, he announced he tested negative for the virus.

International health experts Dr. Michael Osterholm, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy Director at the University of Minnesota; and Dr. Samir Bhatt, senior lecturer at Imperial College London; will watch New York’s metrics as the state reopens and advise officials through the process.

“New York is not out of the woods yet,” Dr. Bhatt said via video call during Monday’s briefing. “No state, no country is. Our team is focused on rigorous modeling to keep track of the (COVID-19 infection rate). New York must continue to be diligent and follow the data.”

The state will work with major sport teams that plan to play without fans.

“Games could be televised,” Gov. Cuomo said, mentioning hockey, basketball, baseball and football. “New York state will help those major sport franchises to do just that. Whoever can reopen, we are ready and willing and able to partner.”

Monday marked day 79 since the state’s first confirmed COVID-19 case.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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