ALBANY — Hundreds of rapid-testing machines sent downstate Monday will combat rising coronavirus clusters in certain New York City neighborhoods and counties surrounding the metro area to prevent subsequent shutdowns, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
The state’s COVID-19 numbers have started to creep higher in certain Brooklyn neighborhoods and areas in Orange and Rockland counties over the last several days as the fall weather turns crisp and students largely returned to school and college campuses.
Brooklyn had a positive infection rate Monday of 2.6%, compared to 2% positive citywide. The Mid-Hudson region, which includes Orange and Rockland counties, had a 3% infection rate, with other blips throughout the Southern Tier.
Officials will conduct targeted COVID-19 diagnostic tests in potential hot-spots over the next several days, the governor said Monday in a conference call with reporters.
“The point of these tests is being able to pinpoint and identify the clusters,” Cuomo said. “...The key with these clusters is to jump on them, quickly attack on all sides so you can do contact tracing and you can get mask compliance up, hand sanitizer and gathering compliance, bars, restaurants, etc.”
The state sent 200 rapid-testing machines, which process COVID-19 diagnostic tests in 15 minutes, to targeted ZIP codes Monday with the highest coronavirus infections. State Health Department officials will conduct the rapid testing if local governments lack medical personnel.
“You can do four per hour,” Cuomo said of the rapid tests. “The public schools, the private schools that are in those ZIP codes — I strongly encourage to request a rapid-testing machine and start testing their students.”
The governor encouraged localities and schools that need testing machines or additional staff to contact his office.
The state reported 834 new coronavirus infections Monday, or 1.5% of the 52,936 COVID-19 tests conducted Sunday. The 20 most populated neighborhoods within the state’s 1,769 ZIP codes have an infection rate of about 10%.
The top 10 ZIP codes had a 10% infection rate Monday, which represent 2.9% of the state’s population and 25% of coronavirus cases.
Monday’s eight highest are: 30% tested positive in ZIP code 10977, Rockland County; 25% positive in 10952, Rockland County; 22% positive in 10950, Orange County; 17% positive in ZIP code 11219, in Kings County, or Brooklyn; 11% positive in 11210, Kings County; 9% each in 11204 and 11230, both in Brooklyn; and 6% positive in the 11367 ZIP code, in Queens.
“Local governments should focus on those cluster ZIP codes in terms of mask and compliant enforcement,” Cuomo said.
Several downstate officials and clergy have tied the recent increase in community spread to religious celebrations and gatherings in the Hasidic Jewish community. Yom Kippur, known as the holiest day of the year in Judaism, started Sunday and ended at sundown Monday.
Cuomo would not specify what caused the clusters, but said the targeted rapid tests will allow officials to perform detailed ZIP code analysis.
“We’ll have a conversation with the local governments, and whatever it is, it is,” the governor said. “These rules apply to all religious gatherings and religious celebrations. Whether you’re Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, it applies to everyone equally. ... This is a public health concern across the board, and that’s what we’re going to be working on with the local governments.”
School and local leaders must remind people to stay diligent in wearing face masks and keeping socially distanced, or 6 feet apart.
“They have to do mask compliance, restaurant compliance, gathering compliance ... otherwise you’re going to see a more drastic alternative, which is going to be a closing down,” Cuomo said. “If local government is worried they won’t do compliance so they don’t offend someone, it doesn’t work, because you’ll offend them even more deeply if you start doing close-downs — and that’s what’s going to happen.”
The governor signed an executive order Monday to remind international travelers from countries with Level 2 and 3 advisories, or where the risk to contract COVID-19 is moderate or high, to complete the state Health Department’s required traveler health form upon arrival and quarantine for two weeks to curb the spread of the disease.
The state established a mandatory quarantine in March for travelers from Level 2 or Level 3 countries.
The governor said the measure is a necessity as Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has reduced airport screenings of international travelers.
“The CDC’s decision to end enhanced screening at airports, coupled with alarming case increases in countries around the world, presents an increased threat to New York’s progress in the war against COVID-19,” Cuomo said.
State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker will expand his emergency health order imposing civil penalties for travelers who refuse to fill out the required form, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
The governor is concerned with the virus resurgence threatening countries around the globe as a second wave emerges in France, Spain and Israel.
As of Monday, 31 countries are not subject to the mandate, including: American Samoa, Anguilla, Bonaire, Brunei, Cambodia, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Guernsey, Greenland, Grenada, Isle of Man, Laos, Macau SAR, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Montserrat, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Palau, Saba, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Sint Eustatius, Taiwan, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
Cuomo extended the state’s residential eviction moratorium through Jan. 1, 2021, due to the COVID-19 emergency.
Eleven New Yorkers died from the coronavirus Sunday, up from six Saturday.
As of Monday, 543 virus patients remain in state hospitals — an increase after hospitalizations fluctuated around 500 New Yorkers last week.