New York will reimpose lockdown restrictions in parts of the state that have seen recent surges in new coronavirus cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday, and he warned of wider limitations if infection rates continued to rise.
The restrictions will affect large swaths of New York City, as well as nearby Rockland and Orange counties, with closures of nonessential businesses and limits on mass gatherings in certain hot spots. They are the first lockdown impositions since the state began to emerge from the pandemic in May and started regional reopenings of its economy.
The measures take a tiered approach with hot spots identified by the colors red, orange or yellow. Hot spots with the highest positivity rates are designated red zones and face a near total shutdown. In those areas, schools are closed, worship is limited to 10 people and mass gatherings are off limits. The restrictions also only allow essential businesses to operate and limit restaurants to providing takeout. Orange and yellow zones face fewer restrictions.
Local municipalities have until Friday to enforce the state’s new tiered approach. Restrictions will be in effect for two weeks and then reviewed, said Mr. Cuomo.
“The new rules are most impactful on houses of worship. This virus is not coming from nonessential business,” said Mr. Cuomo. “This is about mass gatherings.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary, Bill Neidhardt, on Twitter said the city will be consulted on the new cluster maps, and will on Wednesday engage in outreach and education in the affected communities. Implementation will likely begin on Thursday, he said, including any changes to current school closures.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day applauded the state’s new restrictions, saying in a press release that they are logical in scope, and “measured and clearly focused on the areas where this disease is spreading.”
New York City officials asked the state on Sunday to close schools and nonessential businesses in parts of southern Brooklyn and Queens by Wednesday, using ZIP Code as a way to identify areas for restrictions. Mr. Cuomo on Monday agreed only to the closure of about 300 public and private schools in the hot-spot areas, and schools were shut Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the mayor stressed that the facts on the ground in the hot spots made it clear more restrictions were needed. “We need something stronger and we need it quickly,” he said.
Mr. Cuomo, on Tuesday afternoon, appeared to agree. However, the governor’s office created its own map based on data that it said gave more precise boundaries of the hot spots and identified them by one of the tiered zones.
Large portions of Brooklyn and Queens are in the restricted areas, according to the governor’s maps. The hot-spot zones encompass far more parts of the two boroughs than the city’s original plan to target nine ZIP Codes. However, much of these zones are in the yellow tier, meaning they face the least restrictions.
“If the infection rate increases we will be forced to close down,” said Mr. Cuomo. “This is déjà vu.”
The state’s plan to implement restrictions appears to take a broad approach. Outside of an immediate area where there is a cluster of cases—where the state will implement the heaviest business and social restrictions—there are the orange and yellow buffer areas with softer restrictions.
In the orange zone, schools will be closed, worship will be restricted to 25 people, mass gatherings to 10 people, indoor dining banned, and gyms and places for personal care closed.
In the yellow zone, businesses can be open, but there will be limits on houses of worship and mass gatherings. Schools will be open, but there will be mandatory weekly coronavirus testing of students and teachers.
Mr. Cuomo said Tuesday that mass gatherings and schools are places where the disease transmits easily. He has called for greater enforcement of public-safety measures at businesses and religious gatherings. Mr. Cuomo said state officials will supervise enforcement activities, but local governments have to give the state the resources to do the enforcement.
Mr. de Blasio said data reviewed from 1,600 public schools, with targeted testing, shows there is “a low level of coronavirus activity” and that schools are a particularly safe location.
The transmission rate of Covid-19 in New York City remains low, at 1.65% over an average of seven days. In nine hot-spot neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, the rate of people testing positive has been above 3% for at least seven consecutive days, Mr. de Blasio said.
Thirteen communities adjacent to the city’s nine hot-spot areas are also seeing increased rates of positivity, the mayor said. He called those “second tier” areas and said they were at risk of going above a 3% positivity rate.
The number of people testing positive in New York City since mid-September has been on the rise, with the most-recent seven-day average hitting 501 people. A city threshold for new coronavirus cases is 550, an indicator that was set months ago as part of measures rolled out for the reopening of the city in June.
A spokesman for the city’s health department said multiple indicators are used to monitor whether additional action must be taken, “but we have not used that single 550 metric as a threshold for decision-making. That said, the data has spurred our proposed action in the nine neighborhoods of concern.”
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Write to Melanie Grayce West at [email protected]
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