NEW YORK - The New York City Health Department is monitoring rising COVID-19 cases of "significant concern" in six neighborhoods.
"We're now seeing signals that COVID is spreading in some neighborhoods faster and wider than the rest of the city," Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city's health commissioner, said at the mayor's briefing on Tuesday.
The Health Department is focusing efforts in those neighborhoods to try to stop the hike in cases.
"We have been working with community leaders and institutions for weeks and weeks," de Blasio said on Wednesday. "But now we're going to greatly increase our on-the-ground education efforts and enforcements to address this situation."
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"We're doing this to communicate the urgency we feel and that we need everyone to feel about following guidance to prevent the spread of COVID and to protect one another," Chokshi said.
The Health Department is referring to the spike in cases in Midwood, Borough Park, and Bensonhurst collectively as the "Ocean Parkway cluster." Confirmed cases there and in Far Rockaway and Williamsburg have tripled since Aug. 1, the Health Department said. The caseload in Kew Gardens has doubled in the same period.
"There's obviously been a really devoted approach to quarantine here, and a lot of messaging about that I think has had an impact," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "But that being said, we are watching carefully because when we see this many neighborhoods with a problem it's causing us a lot of concern for sure, and we have to immediately address it."
Health officials said that the COVID-19 cases in these areas account for 20% of the cases citywide as of Sept. 19.
"At this point in time, these increases could potentially evolve into more widespread community transmission and spread to other neighborhoods unless action is taken," the Health Department said in a release. "We are monitoring the situation for the need to take further steps in these areas."
Health officials are urging city residents — especially those in these neighborhoods — to avoid large indoor gatherings, wear a mask when in public, and stay home whenever possible, especially when sick.
"Anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 must safely separate from others," the Health Department said. "Anyone who can’t safely separate at home is able to receive accommodations or additional resources from the city."