With a 2.4 percent COVID-19 positivity rate in New York City, the state has identified certain neighborhoods across the boroughs as micro-cluster zones, where the virus is particularly prevalent.
While color zones have been used upstate to pinpoint which towns are dealing with a rash of cases for some time now, NYC is only now seeing this method used throughout its neighborhoods. It's a way to target spikes on a block-by-block basis by going after pockets of infections without affecting the greater community.
In October, Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods (Borough Park, Sheepshead Bay, Midwood and Gravesend) were identified as COVID cluster zones and had to abide by certain restrictions based on whether they were yellow, orange or red, for instance.
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Now, there are micro-clusters popping up in the Bronx (Bronxdale, Parkchester, Morris Heights, High Bridge and Mott Haven) and Queens (Astoria, Kew Gardens and Forest Hills) and across the majority of Staten Island.
But what does each color mean exactly and what restrictions happen when a neighborhood is labeled as a zone?
Here's a breakdown:
Yellow: A yellow zone has a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of above 2.5-4% and has 10-15 more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average.
Orange: An orange zone has a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of above 3-5% and has 10-15 more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average.
Red: A red zone has a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of above 4-6% and has 10-15 more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average.
You can read more in-depth here about what metrics the state uses to determine these zones.
Each neighborhood is categorized into tiers, which affect the state’s designation of zones based on infection rate. Once a neighborhood is designated to a zone, it must follow certain regulations that aim to isolate cases and stop the spread.
The rules of each zone color:
Automatically, the state provides increased community testing, enforcement and compliance efforts, outreach to support local containment and educational efforts, and increased contact tracing support to these zones.
After 14 days of identifying a zone, the state Department of Health and the city's health department (with global health experts) determine whether the communities there have reduced and contained the spread and will either extend, modify or end the zone.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said this week that if the city's overall seven-day positivity rate surpasses 3 percent, its hair salons, gyms and indoor dining would likely need to close, according to The New York Times. The rate was nearing 2.5 percent on Friday.
By zoning clusters, the state hopes to prevent a broader spread that could result in more economic shutdowns.
"If you look around the country, around the world, COVID is surging. In New York, we are not immune to what's happening around us - and with the cold weather and holiday travel, from here to January is going to be very dangerous," he said in a statement. "While some areas have improved over the past weeks, other parts have seen a higher positivity rate."
"These next few weeks will be challenging with the holidays, especially since we all want to see our loved ones after the year we have had, but we cannot let our guard down," he continued. "Love is sometimes doing what's hard—this year, if you love someone, it is smarter and better to stay away, as hard as that is to say and hear. We can get through this if we all continue to wear our masks, stay socially distant, avoid gatherings, wash our hands and above all, stay New York Tough."
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