One word: Testing, testing, testing

A health care worker directs a person to use a nasal swab for a self administered test at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing center at Miami-Dade County Auditorium in Miami as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues on July 23, 2020. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS)

Almost exactly five months since millions of New Yorkers hunkered down in quarantine, the state marked a sort of milestone last week: Localities are revamping COVID-19 testing and influenza vaccine strategies as the state’s rate of new COVID-19 infections remained below 1 percent positive for two consecutive weeks.

In another benchmark, the state last Thursday performed a record-high number of 98,880 diagnostic COVID-19 tests with 709 infected New Yorkers, or 0.72 percent positive. Last Friday marked the 14th consecutive day the state’s number of new cases remained below 1 percent.

Why the success? It comes down to one word: testing, testing, testing. New York tamed the beast because of aggressive testing.

The Trump administration fumbled a clear strategy to cope with the coronavirus while the president prattled about swallowing bleach and belittled Americans who donned face masks.

Instead of falling for the rhetoric, New York stepped up and Thursday raised the bar higher with nearly 100,000 tests reported in a single day.

The state had 119 virus patients in intensive care, and 490 virus patients in New York hospitals Friday, grim news, but for the fact that they are the lowest numbers since the middle of March.

New COVID-19 infections in the GLOW region have remained low, according to the daily updates sent by county health departments. Area coronavirus infection rates among those tested have been steady or declining since the state began reopening nonessential businesses May 15.

But they also noted the need for new testing.

“The rural counties, including Genesee and Orleans still do not have adequate testing,” said Nola Goodrich-Kresse, a public health educator and public information officer for the Genesee and Orleans county health departments. “Testing availability still remains very limited and often requires significant co-pays and out-of-pocket costs and extended travel for our residents. We continue to request that the state provide free state sponsored testing sites in all our rural counties across the state. This will be essential for us to readily respond to COVID activity as we move into the fall with school reopening‘s with the compounding of flu season.”

New York state has been reopening for 14 weeks and the infection rate has actually gone down. This is proof that when you have the virus under control, more testing does not mean more positives, which is a simplistic conclusion.

But despite these gains, the message remains the same: Wear a mask, socially distance and wash your hands. This is not over yet.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1