Cuomo unveils changes to NYC COVID hot spot restrictions

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that he was easing restrictions slightly in some coronavirus hot spots in New York City, but adding them in areas along the Pennsylvania border as the state recorded more than 2,000 new infections in a single day for the first time since mid-May.

The tweaks will mean that schools in parts of Brooklyn and Queens that were shut down two weeks ago will be allowed to reopen, with boosted testing efforts. Houses of worship will be able to increase attendance, as some areas shift from an “orange zone” to a “yellow zone" or are removed from the most severe “red zone” category. Restrictions in other areas will remain in place.

Cuomo announced the reinstatement of some coronavirus restrictions in two new clusters in the state's Southern Tier. A part of Chemung County must now boost virus testing in schools, while a portion of Steuben County will see schools and some nonessential businesses close in a new orange zone.

New York, like other states, has seen its number of infections rise as colleges and schools have opened their doors and social distancing rules have been eased.

It reported more than 2,000 new confirmed virus cases Tuesday, the highest total since May 20. As recently as late August, the state was averaging fewer than 600 new cases per day.

At his news briefing, Cuomo said New York could resort to wider restrictions over whole regions of the state if things continue to worsen, but he said he was confident the state could focus its containment strategy on “micro clusters” where the virus flared for now.

“Because these are so small, these areas, they’re going to flare-up,” Cuomo said. “And then you run and you put them out. The next day, there’s another flare-up.”

Cuomo said he expects the state will continue to see new “micro-clusters” throughout the fall and winter.

New York is not making any changes for now to restrictions on people living and working in certain hot spots in Rockland, Orange and Broome counties.

For the first time, Cuomo also laid out some standards for when a community declared to be a “red zone” can ease restrictions, saying it would be lined to the percentage of virus tests conducted in the area that come back positive.

The state's Southern Tier region — which borders Pennsylvania and is home to over 800,00 residents — is seeing its largest outbreak of the pandemic, though one that is still modest compared to the crisis in the New York City metro area in the spring. At least 85 people were hospitalized with the virus in the region as of Oct. 15.

Cuomo called for stronger local enforcement and urged the public to keep adhering to mask and social-distancing rules even as the “adrenaline” of March and April fades.

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