NYC Eyes New Shutdowns for 1st Time in Months as COVID Clusters Grow; Monday

What to Know

  • For the first time in its recovery period, New York City may have to scale back reopenings in certain neighborhoods to combat growing clusters
  • The largest cluster 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 along with day cares
  • In some parts of the clusters, positivity rates have hit 6 percent; increasingly, more neighborhoods seem to be affected by the spread

New COVID clusters in Brooklyn and Queens have seen such alarming growth in the past week — and again over the past few days — that the health department says reopening rollbacks may be implemented for the first time in the city’s recovery period if progress is not made. It set a Monday deadline for that.

“The immediate scaling back of activities” would apply only to the affected ZIP codes, not citywide, the health department said Thursday evening — and could include bans of gatherings of 10 or more people, mask fines, private school and child care center closures and shuttering all non-essential businesses again.

Those actions could begin to be implemented as early as Tuesday. The city’s top health officials, including Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Dr. Dave Chokshi, President and Chief Executive Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals Mitchell Katz and the mayor’s seniormost public health and test and trace advisers are expected to detail the latest on the clusters and next steps later Friday.

The increase in positive COVID cases was largest in the Gravesend/Homecrest area, where the positivity rate hit 6 percent Thursday. Other problems areas include Midwood (4.95 percent), Edgemere/Far Rockaway (4.08 percent), Kew Gardens (3.99 percent), Borough Park (3.53 percent), Bensonhurst/Mapleton (3.16 percent), Sheepshead Bay (3.07 percent), Flatlands/Midwood (3.06 percent) and Williamsburg (1.67 percent).

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

With all of New York state in some phase of reopening, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is shifting his focus to monitoring test results on a daily basis across each region to identify potential hotspots before they emerge. Here’s the latest tracking data by region. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here

While some of those areas saw slight declines in positivity rates since the health department’s last update earlier this week (like Williamsburg, Bensonhurst and Borough Park), the others have seen notable upticks — and the cluster appears to be affecting more neighborhoods than it had 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. Staff is being beefed up to enhance enforcement on mask and social distancing compliance. Sheriff deputies and the NYPD continue to monitor mask compliance, which the health department says is “overwhelmingly low” compared to other parts of the city. Some issues have been found as stores as well; those are being revisited.

Other outreach efforts to contain clusters the city has warned could evolve into widespread transmission include robocalls, direct mailing, newspaper ads, free hand sanitizer and mask distribution and enhanced testing and tracing.

The initial spike occurred between Aug. 1 and Sept. 19, the department said. The newly termed “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 had accounted for one in five of all new COVID cases citywide since Saturday, though given the growth since, that ratio is likely higher now.

New York City officials are on alert as six neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens are experiencing a significant spikes in COVID-19 cases — just as leaders around the world are beginning to see signs of a potential second wave. NBC New York’s John Chandler reports.

The latest indicators from the city show the new clusters are already contributing to a steady uptick in daily COVID cases but overall, New York City’s infection rate is low, with just 1.1 percent of more than 37,600 tests conducted Wednesday coming back positive, according to the latest data released Thursday.

Brooklyn has the highest overall positivity rate of the five boroughs (1.9 percent) and has seen that steadily tick up over the last few days, from 1.4 percent on Tuesday to 1.6 percent Wednesday and 1.9 percent Thursday.

The city released the latest seven-day report on new COVID cases Friday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has warned looming reopenings like indoor dining may be reevaluated if the citywide infection rate hits 2 percent — and if it hits 3 percent, that could immediately justify school closures. But he has said he believes the city can turn the tide in these neighborhoods if compliance improves significantly and immediately….

Read More: NYC Eyes New Shutdowns for 1st Time in Months as COVID Clusters Grow; Monday

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