Some Brooklyn restrictions eased, but statewide cases at highest since May
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that he was easing restrictions slightly in some coronavirus hot spots in New York City, but adding them in areas along the Pennsylvania border as the state recorded more than 2,000 new infections in a single day for the first time since mid-May.
The tweaks will mean that schools in parts of Brooklyn and Queens that were shut down two weeks ago will be allowed to reopen, with boosted testing efforts. Houses of worship will be able to increase attendance, as some areas shift from an “orange zone” to a “yellow zone” or are removed from the most severe “red zone” category. Restrictions in other areas will remain in place.
Brooklyn orange zone areas will become yellow zone areas, while its yellow zone areas will remain in that category.
The red zones, roughly speaking, include parts of Borough Park, Midwood, Midwood, Gravesend, Bensonhurst and Homecrest. The orange zones that will become yellow zones include parts of Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island, Flatlands, East Flatbush, the South Slope, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush, Sunset Park and Bensonhurst. These zones surround the borders of the red zones.
All in all, the percentage of positive cases in Brooklyn’s red zone decreased from 7.7 percent down to 5.5 percent during the past seven days, according to figures provided by the state.
For the first time, Cuomo also laid out some standards for when a community declared to be a red zone can ease restrictions, saying it would be linked to the percentage of virus tests conducted in the area that come back positive.
In New York City as a whole, according to Gothamist, red zone areas must sustain a 3 percent COVID testing positivity rate for 10 days. The threshold for orange zones to shift to yellow is 2 percent, and yellow zones that have a positivity rating of 1.5 percent or less will have all hot spot restrictions lifted.
Looking at Queens, Brooklyn’s neighboring borough, the Central Queens cluster of Rego Park, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens Hills, most of which was tagged as orange or red zones, as well as Far Rockaway, will now transition into yellow zones.
However, Ozone Park, which had no restrictions, will now become a yellow zone area because of an uptick in cases there.
Cuomo also announced the reinstatement of some coronavirus restrictions in two new clusters in the state’s Southern Tier. A part of Chemung County must now boost virus testing in schools, while a portion of Steuben County will see schools and some nonessential businesses close in a new orange zone.
New York, like other states, has seen its number of infections rise as colleges and schools have opened their doors and social distancing rules have been eased.
It reported more than 2,000 new confirmed virus cases Tuesday, the highest total since May 20. As recently as late August, the state was averaging fewer than 600 new cases per day.
At his news briefing, Cuomo said New York could resort to wider restrictions over whole regions of the state if things continue to worsen, but he said he was confident the state could focus its containment strategy on “micro clusters” where the virus flared for now.
“Because these are so small, these areas, they’re going to flare-up,” Cuomo said. “And then you run and you put them out. The next day, there’s another flare-up.”
Cuomo said he expects the state will continue to see new “micro-clusters” throughout the fall and winter.
New York is not making any changes for now to restrictions on people living and working in certain hot spots in Rockland, Orange and Broome counties.
For the first time, Cuomo also laid out some standards for when a community declared to be a “red zone” can ease restrictions, saying it would be lined to the percentage of virus tests conducted in the area that come back positive.
The state’s Southern Tier region — which borders Pennsylvania and is home to over 800,00 residents — is seeing its largest outbreak of the pandemic, though one that is still modest compared to the crisis in the New York City metro area in the spring. At least 85 people were hospitalized with the virus in the region as of Oct. 15.
Cuomo called for stronger local enforcement and urged the public to keep adhering to mask and social-distancing rules even as the “adrenaline” of March and April fades.
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