Plunge in New York’s COVID-19 transmission rate a relief, but danger still lurks

The Hassebroeks walk home after picking up supplies in preparation for Lydia Hassebroek's digital graduation during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., June 11, 2020.
REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

BY ROBERT POZARYCKI

Once the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, New York state now has the lowest transmission rate in the country.

Rt Live, the online COVID-19 tracker that the founders of Instagram launched in April, reported Friday that New York’s transmission rate stands at 0.77, the lowest in the country. A transmission rate at 1 or higher indicates rapid spread of an illness, while a number under 1 indicates a decline in spread.

Governor Andrew Cuomo touted that number during his Friday press conference, considering that just two months ago, COVID-19 raged across the state, particularly in New York City. During a six-day period in early April, New York state lost more than 700 people to COVID-19 each day.

Since then, the coronavirus cases have been in a slow but steady decline. New York’s in the midst of a phased reopening of society to help slow the spread. Fortunately, the governor said, there hasn’t been a spike in COVID-19 cases since the reopening effort began upstate on May 15.

Yet the risk of a second surge of cases remains, Cuomo said, noting that parts of New York City still have very high infection rates. Adding to the challenge has been a nationwide uptick in COVID-19 cases, with nearly half of all states spiking after reopening.

“This is a pivotal point in this entire situation with the coronavirus,” Cuomo said. “You see states all across the nation where the infection rate is going up dramatically. You now have states that reopened that are scaling back their reopening. That’s how bad the spikes are.”

The Rt Live report for June 12 notes the high transmission rate in some of the states Cuomo mentioned, including Arizona (1.08), Florida (1.04) and Texas (1.03). Yet the state with the highest transmission rate is one of New York’s neighbors: Vermont (1.13).

The nationwide surge, Cuomo said, makes it all the more critical for New Yorkers to continue exercising precaution — and to monitor testing rates. As of June 11, the Governor’s office indicated that New York City’s positive COVID-19 test rate stands at 1.5%.

“Since we’ve reopened, the number has continued to go down, believe it or not, because we’ve been disciplined in our reopening, and that’s what we have to continue to do,” he added. “Now is no time to forget what got us here. We have to be smart.”

This story first appeared on amny.com.

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