Is NYC going back into quarantine? The latest COVID-19 news
The feared resurgence of COVID-19 is now a fact. New York City is seeing a definite increase in cases in areas of Brooklyn & Queens. These areas, dubbed “clusters” have seen such alarming growth in the past week – and again over the past few days – that a NYC quarantine might well be coming.
The increase in positive COVID cases was largest in the Gravesend/Homecrest area, where the positivity rate hit six percent Thursday. Other problems areas include Midwood, Edgemere/Far Rockaway , Kew Gardens, Borough Park, Bensonhurst/Mapleton, Sheepshead Bay, Flatlands/Midwood & Williamsburg.
In Brooklyn, the outbreak has hit predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. One hot spot, known as the “Ocean Parkway cluster,” includes Midwood, Borough Park & Bensonhurst. The cluster had 122 coronavirus cases as of August 1, but that doubled to 241 by September 5. The numbers have only gotten worse since then, with 381 cases as of this past weekend.
Speaking at a news briefing in Brooklyn Friday, Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Dr. Dave Chokshi was clear about the urgency of the situation. “This may be the most precarious moment that we’re facing since we have emerged from lockdown,” Chokshi said, warning the clusters could soon evolve into widespread transmission and possible NYC quarantine. “We will move as swiftly as the situation warrants.”
For the boroughs, NYC quarantine could become very real. “The immediate scaling back of activities” would apply only to the affected zip codes, not citywide, the health department said – and could include bans of gatherings of ten or more people, mask fines, private school & child care center closings, and shutdown of all non-essential businesses again.
Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that upcoming reopenings like indoor dining may be curtailed if the citywide infection rate hits two percent – and if it hits three percent, that could mean immediate school closures. But he believes they can turn the tide in these neighborhoods if compliance improves significantly and immediately. If not, de Blasio warned “urgent action” must be undertaken in order to avoid NYC quarantine.
On Wednesday, de Blasio said “urgent actions” like outreach, education and social distancing/mask enforcement were being taken to stop the increased spread of the coronavirus in six Brooklyn & Queens neighborhoods. De Blasio didn’t indicate any potential rollbacks of reopenings in the area, but he didn’t rule anything out either, including NYC quarantine, vowing to do, “whatever it takes”.
According to the Health Department, mask compliance has been “overwhelmingly low” in the hot spots across both boroughs. The city will be rolling out mobile testing sites to the impacted neighborhoods as Health Department workers canvas the areas to distribute face coverings, hand sanitizer, and coronavirus literature to hopefully avoid NYC quarantine.
Statewide, the infection rate also remains low. It has been at one percent or below for more than a month. Yet, there are clear signs for concern. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday he is watching the situation closely, acknowledging the Brooklyn cluster without sounding any major alarm about NYC quarantine, or other measures – yet. He said New York is okay for now.
Cuomo also said the state only steps in if the local health department “is impotent or incompetent”. He said that clusters are expected but this one – or others – wouldn’t affect the statewide reopening of schools unless they affect the statewide infection rate. And if that happens, it’s no longer just a cluster. Cuomo also points to a national new case increase of more than fifteen percent in ten days as a reason for vigilance.
It’s been nearly three months since tri-state governors implemented a travel restriction for thirty states to protect their progress against COVID-19 and prevent another NYC quarantine. Cuomo added five new “hotspots” to the list this week including Arizona, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island, & Wyoming. “New York won’t be completely safe until the other states are completely safe,” Cuomo stated.