Cuomo: 'Very dangerous' phase of pandemic is here

Associated PressGov. Andrew Cuomo holds a press briefing on the coronavirus in the Red Room at the State Capitol in Albany on Wednesday. 

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Thursday the spread of the coronavirus poses so many risks that even attending traditional Thanksgiving dinners could put people in harm's way..

He also predicted the number of COVID-19 infections will "go very high" into the holiday season.

Meanwhile, the latest state data showed the positivity rate from coronavirus tests was 2.7%, down from 3.4% one day earlier. But officials have cautioned that one-day fluctuations in the positivity rate, whether they be lower or higher, could amount to a "hiccup," with longer measures needed to discern trends.

Cuomo has been contending New York's strategy of responding to outbreaks by identifying "micro clusters" in communities and then imposing restrictions has helped drive down infection rates in several communities.

But one day after he theorized Western New York is experiencing a sharp uptick because it was removed from the initial downstate surge, the Westchester community of New Rochelle, the state's first hot spot, was identified as experiencing a new spike in infections.

Cuomo emphasized his concerns that New York could soon be facing a much more devastating spread.

"I will wager to you that if people are not extraordinarily diligent, and act in a way they’ve never acted before, you’re going to see a very large spike,” he said.

He predicted: "From here to January is very dangerous."

As for the Thanksgiving, Cuomo warned: "Your safe zone is not a safe zone. Your safe zone is dangerous this year. Please, love is sometimes doing what’s hard. This year, if you love someone, it is smarter and better to stay away, as hard as that is to say and hear."

The Niagara-Buffalo region has been at the top or near the top of the state's regions with the highest positivity rates for the past several weeks.

"Western New York has been and continues to be the problem,” the governor said. On Thursday, the region's positive infection rate stood at 4.8%, not quite double the statewide rate.

He noted New York's trigger points for implementing restrictions — 3% and 4%, with higher levels leading to more aggressive limits on businesses — are among the nation's "most conservative" adjustment points.

"But better safe than sorry," he said. "And we went through this before and we want to minimize the damage."

The state experienced a marked downturn in economic activity after many retail shops and offices were locked down in March, though big box stores carrying groceries, supermarkets and convenience stores remained open.

While statewide unemployment has dropped from its peak earlier this year, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday the jobless rate now stands at 9.6%, a slight decrease from the 9.7% level one month earlier.

The nation's unemployment rate in October was 6.9%.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com

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