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Cuomo warns of total shutdown if virus rate is not controlled

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office
Gov. Cuomo presides over the New York Electoral College.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Monday that the state is headed for another lockdown if the rising coronavirus infection rate doesn’t slow.

Cuomo spoke as Sunday’s numbers, the latest available, showed that the positivity rate is 5.66%. He said 5,712 New Yorkers were in the hospital with the disease, up more than 300 people from Saturday. Eighty-three people died of COVID-19 on Sunday.

The governor said while New York’s rate is lower than most other states, the numbers are alarming -- and without a turnaround may soon lead to a second total closure of all but essential businesses and services.

“If we do not change the trajectory, we could very well be headed to shutdown,” Cuomo said. “And shutdown is something to worry about.”

Cuomo said the regions of particular concern are the Rochester area, central New York and New York City, where infections are rising the fastest and the number of hospitalizations is increasing.

He warned that gathering for the holidays will raise transmission rates even further. Small gatherings of family and friends account for 74% of virus spread, according to contact tracers. The governor said New Yorkers should “get a different picture of the holidays in your mind” and celebrate only within their own households.

“It just takes one nephew, one cousin, one uncle,” Cuomo said. “And now you have a problem.”

Earlier in the day, Cuomo livestreamed the first New Yorker to be vaccinated for the virus, a Queens critical care nurse. He later said it will take months before the vaccination rate hits a critical mass of 75% to 85%. He said for now, economic shutdown is the only tool for tamping down the spread.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.