New York's single-day COVID death toll fell to three on Monday, the lowest daily count since Sept. 28, 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, while statewide hospitalizations remain well below their opening threshold at the pandemic's start.
None of the three deaths were in former national hotspots Brooklyn and Queens, which still rank as America's third and fifth deadliest counties, respectively, according to Johns Hopkins. The two counties have confirmed more than 20,000 between them since March 2020, the university says, though likely can count many more that haven't been definitively linked by diagnosis.
Hospitalizations, a key metric watched by state health officials in tracking the spread of the virus since the spring of 2020, have been on a steady decline since the introduction of federally approved vaccines.
New York reported a record-low number of hospitalizations on Sunday of 330, a 41-patient decline from the record-low set the day before. On Monday that bumped up a bit to 346. Prior to the last three days, no fewer than 410 COVID patients had been hospitalized statewide since that metric started to be reported daily.
"Our state has come a long way in beating back this virus, but our work continues because we need to get every New Yorker vaccinated," Cuomo said in a statement Monday. "Every shot in the arm brings us closer to defeating this beast once and for all, which is why we are continuing to work with our local partners across the state to make sure the vaccine is accessible in every community."
"If you still need to get your shot, I urge you to do so quickly because it's the best way to protect yourself and everyone else you care about," the governor added.
Cuomo has been touting positive trends in the Empire State for weeks as positivity rates plummet and the state's seven-day average dropped to the lowest in the entire country earlier this month, according to Johns Hopkins.
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News of improving hospitalizations in New York follows the end of Cuomo's longstanding COVID-19 state of emergency. That wrapped last week after 474 days.
The shift in public health policy comes as more than 10 million New Yorkers have completed their vaccine series but officials warn of a quickly spreading new variant that poses a severe threat to those who have yet to get inoculated.
New health department data out Friday shows the presence of the so-called delta COVID variant in New York City has nearly doubled since officials' previous report.
As of Friday, the delta variant that first devastated India before spreading globally -- and is thought to be up to 60% more transmissible than the first widely tracked contagious variant that emerged in the U.K. last year -- accounts for 10.3% of citywide samples tested in the last four weeks. That's up from 5.6% in city officials' previous report and up from 4.9% in the health department report before that.
Given the relatively minute subset of positive samples that are genetically sequenced to assess potential strain variations, both CDC and local New York City experts believe the prevalence of delta to be significantly higher than reported.
Asked about delta again Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City continues to monitor the delta variant closely and does "take it seriously." Still, he said, the five boroughs' core viral rates continue to move in the right direction. Existing vaccines appear to be highly protective against that strain and others, health officials say.
Nearly two-thirds of New York City adults are fully vaccinated, while about 72% have had at least one dose.
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Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC