New York continues to have one of the nation’s lowest rates of people testing positive for the coronavirus, but experts say recent outbreaks and cooler weather could push those numbers up.
The state had the second-lowest positive test rate in the country, according to Covid Act Now, a nonprofit website run by epidemiologists, public health experts, data scientists and others that analyzes COVID-19 data. In the latest analysis, from Saturday, only Maine, at 0.5%,had a lower rate than New York, which was tied with Vermont for the second-lowest positivity rate of 1.2%. Idaho, with 23.9% of people testing positive, had the highest. The group uses a 7-day rolling average of test results.
In March and April, New York was the epicenter for the pandemic in the United States, with hundreds of residents dying of COVID-19 every day.
“We got from where we were in April because we distanced, we isolated, we masked, and the virus ran its course,” said Dr. David Battinelli, chief medical officer of New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health, the state’s largest health system.
New Yorkers take the pandemic more seriously than many other Americans because they lived through the surge in cases that overloaded area hospitals with COVID-19 patients, and they’re more likely to know people who got sick or died from the disease, he said.
“The question about whether this is real, whether it’s a conspiracy, ‘Is it really what they say?,’ ‘I know somebody who didn’t get that sick’ — all that’s been answered locally,” he said.
“There is more fear,” said Sean Clouston, an associate professor of public health at Stony Brook University.
Clouston said he recently viewed live cams in several states and noticed that in New York most or all people were wearing face coverings, while in states like South Carolina, North Dakota and Louisiana, most of those with masks were seniors or people with visible disabilities, and others typically didn’t wear them.
“I think the culture around mask use is very different — the idea you should protect yourself versus the idea you should wear masks to protect everybody,” he said.
Masks both help prevent people from spreading the coronavirus and from being exposed to it themselves. They become even more important as the weather gets cooler and people spend more time indoors, where the virus is much more likely to spread, Clouston said.
New York also took a more gradual approach to reopening its economy, in comparison to mass reopenings in other states, said Dr. Leonard Krilov, an infectious disease specialist at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola and chairman of pediatrics.
“We’ve been more careful,” he said.
He contrasted his 10-year-old daughter’s Long Island school, with strict social-distancing and other restrictions, with the images he’s seen in other states of students crowded together in hallways.
New York also had the sixth-lowest number of daily new cases per 100,000, according to Covid Act Now.
The state’s 7.4 daily new cases per 100,000 residents was much lower than states experiencing surges, such