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As COVID-19 cases decline, no indication yet when restrictions will end

Suffolk County on Saturday saw the fewest cases of COVID-19 in a single day since Dec. 13, as a downward trend continues after the winter surge’s peak appears to have passed.

There were 1,170 new cases on Saturday, the sixth time in the last seven days that cases were under 2,000 per day. By comparison, there were more than 5,600 cases per day during the first week of 2022.

The county’s positivity rate among residents who have been tested now stands at 13% on a seven-day average, similar to the level seen right before Christmas.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Friday noted the statewide positivity rate had dipped to single-digits for the first time since Dec. 20.

“We are not letting our foot off the pedal until we can declare that we are in a place where we can manage without all the restrictions we put in place,” the governor said while speaking at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton. “But until then we do believe that everything we’re doing, continuing to keep socially distant, getting vaccinated, and wearing the mask is making a big difference.”

There were 748 people in the county hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Saturday, a decline from when the number had hovered above 1,000 recently. New fatalities continue to be recorded with 11 on Saturday in Suffolk. There have been 292 fatalities due to COVID-19 in Suffolk this month.

The governor declined to offer any specifics on when a mask mandate for schools could end, noting the Omicron variant fueled an unforeseen surge.

“The trend is great, and if people get their kids vaccinated, I won’t worry so much about their kids either,” she said.

She added that mask requirements are not permanent.

“One of my best days I look forward to, other than being done with the budget this year, is the day I can say these requirements are suspended and they did the job they were expected to do,” she said.

The current mask-or-vaccine requirement for businesses that went into effect in December is scheduled to expire on Feb. 1.

The governor gave no indication if the mandate would be extended for a second time after it was originally set through mid-January. Ms. Hochul said a decision would likely not be made until Jan. 31.