NYC pandemic restrictions eased as problems spread upstate

Restrictions in some New York City pandemic hot spots will be rolled back even as the state plans to combat flare-ups in and around upstate New York’s largest cities, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

The actions being considered for the Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse areas reflect the shifting state strategy as COVID-19 becomes a widespread problem beyond New York City, once an epicenter of the pandemic.

“In general, downstate New York is doing better than upstate New York, which is a total reversal from the first phase of COVID,” Cuomo said during a telephone briefing.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City health officials reported an uptick in cases on Staten Island, with a particular focus on two zip codes: 10305 on the east shore of the borough and 10314 in the mid-Island region. More than 3% of covid tests in those areas are coming back positive.

Despite that news, so-called micro-cluster restrictions in Far Rockaway in Queens will be lifted. In Brooklyn, a red-zone area, the most restrictive of three color-coded zones, will be reduced by 50%, as will the less-restrictive yellow zone, Cuomo said.

“The Brooklyn micro-cluster, the red zone, is working and it’s working well and we are going to reduce the size of the red zone by 50%,” said Governor Cuomo.

The news was worse in parts of upstate New York, particularly in Buffalo and parts of surrounding Erie County, Rochester and Monroe County and Syracuse and Onondaga County. Cuomo said his administration would talk to elected officials in those areas over the weekend to come up with a micro-cluster strategy that he could announce Monday.

The village of Port Chester on the Connecticut border will also come under yellow-zone restrictions, the governor said.

Meanwhile, more than 1,600 voters who cast ballots at one polling site in New York's Hudson Valley on Election Day are being advised to get tested for the coronavirus after a poll worker tested positive.

The worker was stationed at the East Fishkill Community Center in Hopewell Junction, the Dutchess County Health Department said in an advisory Thursday evening.

Poll workers who had “sustained contact” with their infected colleague are quarantining and will be tested, the agency said.

Some 1,657 votes were cast there Tuesday, but only a fraction of the voters would have interacted with the infected poll worker, as voters were directed to different parts of the polling place according to their voting district, county spokesperson Colleen Pilius said Friday.

The Health Department said the risk to voters is “minimal" because the infected poll worker was wearing a mask, keeping physical distance and following other precautions. Still, Commissioner Dr. Anil Vaidian encouraged anyone who cast a ballot at the community center Tuesday to get tested and be alert for any signs of COVID-19 symptoms.

With the Associated Press.

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