What there is to know
- For the first time in its recovery period, New York City may need to reduce reopening in some neighborhoods to combat cluster growth.
- The larger group of four neighborhoods has been dubbed “The Ocean Parkway Cluster”; if no progress is made on positivity rates by Monday evening, non-essential businesses could be closed as well as daycares
- In parts of the clusters, positivity rates reached 6%; more and more neighborhoods appear to be affected by the spread
New COVID clusters in Brooklyn and Queens have grown so alarmingly over the past week – and again over the past few days – that the health department has said reopening rollbacks could be implemented for the first time in the city’s payback period if progress is not made. He set a deadline on Monday for this.
“The immediate reduction in activity” would only apply to affected zip codes, not the entire city, the health department said Thursday evening – and could include bans on gatherings of 10 or more people, fines masks, the closing of private schools and daycares and closing again all non-essential businesses.
These actions could start to be implemented on Tuesday.
The increase in positive COVID cases was largest in the Gravesend / Homecrest area, where the positivity rate reached 6% on Thursday. Other problem areas include Midwood (4.95%), Edgemere / Far Rockaway (4.08%), Kew Gardens (3.99%), Borough Park (3.53%), Bensonhurst / Mapleton (3.16 %), Sheepshead Bay (3.07%), Flatlands / Midwood (3.06%) and Williamsburg (1.67%).
Daily percentage of positive tests by New York region
With all of New York State in a phase of reopening, Governor Andrew Cuomo is focused on daily monitoring test results in each region to identify potential hot spots before they emerge. Here is the latest tracking data by region. For the latest county-wide statewide results, click here
While some of these areas have seen a slight drop in positivity rates since the Department of Health’s last update earlier this week (such as Williamsburg, Bensonhurst and Borough Park), the others have seen noticeable increases – and the cluster appears to affect more neighborhoods than it did. been earlier this week.
Starting Friday, the health department will conduct regular inspections of all non-public schools within the clusters and their adjacent zip codes. The staff is reinforced to strengthen the application of respect for masks and social distancing. Sheriff’s deputies and the NYPD continue to monitor compliance with masks, which the health department says is “extremely low” compared to other parts of the city. Some problems were also found as stores; these are revisited.
Other outreach efforts to contain the clusters which the city says could evolve into widespread transmission include robocalls, direct mail, newspaper ads, free distribution of hand sanitizer and masks and improved testing and tracing.
The initial peak occurred between August 1 and September 19, the department said. The new “Ocean Parkway Cluster” is a group of four neighborhoods that has seen coronavirus rates triple during that seven week period. Earlier this week, those four areas accounted for one in five of all new COVID cases in the city since Saturday, though given the growth since then, that ratio is likely higher now.
New York City officials are on alert as six neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens experience significant spikes in COVID-19 cases – just as leaders around the world are starting to see signs of a potential second wave. Reports by John Chandler of NBC New York.
Overall, New York City’s infection rate is low, with just 1.1% of the more than 37,600 tests performed on Wednesday coming back positive, according to the latest data released Thursday. Brooklyn has the highest overall positivity rate of the five boroughs (1.9%) and has seen that rate rise steadily in recent days, from 1.4% on Tuesday to 1.6% on Wednesday and 1.9% on Thursday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has warned that impending reopens, like dining inside, could be reassessed if the city-wide infection rate hits 2% – and if it hits 3%, it could immediately justify the closure of schools. But he said he believes the city can turn the tide in those neighborhoods if compliance improves dramatically and immediately. Otherwise, he said “urgent action” had to be taken.
In a live Facebook chat with Gov. Phil Murphy, Dr Fauci said New Jersey was “in good shape” to handle a possible second wave that could come this fall or winter. NBC New York’s Pat Battle reports.
Statewide, the infection rate also remains low. It has been 1% or less for over a month. But there are clear signs of concern. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday he was keeping a close watch on New York City, acknowledging the Brooklyn cluster without raising a major alert – yet. He said New York was OK for now.
Asked Thursday whether the state would get involved in containment efforts, Cuomo said the state only steps in if the local health department “is helpless or incompetent.” He reiterated that clusters were expected, but said this one – or others – would not affect the reopening of schools statewide unless they affect the rate of statewide infection. And if that happens, it’s not just a cluster anymore.
Cuomo also points to a further increase in cases of more than 15% in 10 days nationwide as a reason to remain vigilant. Five more states were added to the tri-state quarantine list this week amid the latest national increases, bringing the total number of restricted US states and territories to 35.
“New York won’t be completely safe until other states are completely safe,” Cuomo said Thursday.
Nationwide, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States has exceeded 7 million and at least 200,000 people have died, according to NBC News. New York state alone has confirmed nearly half a million cases and more than 25,000 confirmed deaths, although officials agree that thousands more are likely linked to the virus.