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Friday, November 27, 2020

New York governor raises alarm about new virus hot spots

ALBANY, New York (AP) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo raised alarm Monday about the emergence of a handful of coronavirus hot spots in New York, saying just 10 ZIP codes represented more than a quarter of the state’s new infections in recent testing.

New York has reported just over 11,500 new COVID-19 infections over the past two weeks, according to state figures.

A disproportionate number of new cases have come from a handful of communities in New York City and its northern suburbs that are home to many Orthodox Jews, who on Monday were marking the high holiday of Yom Kippur.

Of the 834 new cases reported Sunday, 27 per cent were in a group of 10 ZIP codes that included several Orthodox neighbourhoods in Brooklyn and Queens and in several Hasidic communities in Rockland County.

The state also reported an unusual number of positive tests in an area north of Binghamton in New York’s Southern Tier, a region Cuomo has warned is seeing clusters stemming from a Steuben County nursing home, a church gathering in Chemung County and a pub in Broome County.

Health officials in the city and in Rockland and Orange counties have previously raised concerns about rising rates in Hasidic communities, which saw students at religious schools return to in-person learning in early September. Public schools in the city are rolling out in-person learning this week.

Cuomo declined to single out any particular group for the spike.

“Whatever the population, the answer’s going to be the same — it’s compliance,” Cuomo told reporters Monday afternoon.

He urged school leaders to put in requests now for rapid testing machines, which Cuomo said have a 15-minute turnaround for results. The governor said the state has 200 rapid testing machines available for those communities.

“The key with these clusters is to jump on them quickly, attack on all sides,” he said.

Cuomo also called on local government officials to better enforce COVID-19 restrictions in bars, restaurants and other gatherings.

New York City health officials have said they are considering re-imposing restrictions on gatherings in select city neighbourhoods where the virus was spreading.

Cuomo acknowledged people are getting sick of wearing masks and staying six feet apart, but cautioned, “You’ll offend them even more deeply if you start doing close-downs, and that’s what’s going to happen.”

Statewide, about 1.5 per cent of people who sought COVID-19 tests wound up testing positive in results reported Sunday. Cuomo warned though that in a handful of ZIP codes, that rate is now up over 20 per cent.

Cuomo warned his administration could close schools in areas where too many people are testing positive for the virus.

Still, New York’s rate of new infections is far lower than many states: the state reported about four new cases per 100,000 New Yorkers over the past week. That seven-day average reached nearly 50 in April.

New York hospitals reported 543 COVID-19 patients as of Sunday, the most since August 18 but only a fraction of the nearly 19,000 who were in the hospital at the pandemic’s April peak.

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