This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Monday, September 28th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.

New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and gyms. A look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.

Here's the latest:

4:30 p.m. New York City health officials are now reporting an overall increase in the number of coronavirus hospitalizations, another indicator that the virus is spreading faster.

The Department of Health did not provide a number, but according to the latest stats tweeted by Mayor Bill de Blasio, there were recently 61 coronavirus patients admitted to hospitals. Due to a reporting delays, the hospitalization data can be as much as a week behind.

In another alarming sign, the city's overall positivity rate is now nearly 2%, after hovering around 1% for weeks.

Monday was the sixth day in a row that city health officials sent the media an update on eight neighborhoods they have identified as areas of concern.

Six of the eight neighborhoods experienced increases in cases from from the prior day’s report, the DOH said. Together, the areas account for over a quarter of new cases citywide over the past two weeks, despite representing just under 7% of the city’s overall population.

Below are the latest positivity rates based on a 14-day average on all the areas that the city is monitoring:

  • Gravesend/Homecrest [11223] (6.72%)
  • Midwood [11230] (5.53%)
  • Kew Gardens [11415] (3.61%)
  • Edgemere/Far Rockaway [11691] (3.98%)
  • Borough Park [11219] (5.26%)
  • Bensonhurst/Mapleton [11204] (5.15%)
  • Gerritsen Beach/Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay [11229] (4.05%)
  • Flatlands/Midwood [11210] (4.08%)

One new ZIP code has surpassed 3% positivity:

  • Kew Gardens Hills/Pomonok [11367] (3.04%)

In addition to these 9 ZIP codes, we have identified 3 additional ZIP codes that are showing increased growth of cases and test positivity between 2% and 3%, which are:

  • Rego Park [11374] (2.49%)
  • Kensington/Windsor Terrace [11218] (2.50%)
  • Brighton Beach/Manhattan Beach/Sheepshead Bay [11235] (2.63%)

Two out of the 3 areas above, have also increased in the percent of positive tests since the day before, according to preliminary data.

Williamsburg remains an area where we are observing a faster increase in cases compared to other parts of the city, even though the test positivity rate is below 3% (1.84%).

In addition to increased enforcement and outreach, the DOH said it would deploy this week 11 mobile testing units to the areas with high rates of COVID-19 positivity. Health officials had previously threatened to initiate fines, and closures of schools and non-essential businesses.

Cuomo Identifies New Covid Clusters In Brooklyn, Orange And Rockland Counties

1 p.m. Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday said the state is investigating coronavirus clusters in Brooklyn, Orange county and Rockland county.

Brooklyn now has a borough-wide positivity rate of 2.6%, while the mid-Hudson region, which includes Orange and Rockland counties, has a 3% positivity rate, Cuomo said during a call with reporters.

Across New York, state health officials found a positivity rate of 1.5% on Sunday, up from 1.02% on Saturday. Cuomo said the increase was due to the three cluster areas.

"It's very targeted. Our health officials are going to be reaching out to those communities today to do additional testing and compliance measures," he said.

The city has issued alerts about eight ZIP codes in South Brooklyn and Queens (see below) and announced stepped up enforcement actions. The Department of Health has said it may resort to school and business shutdowns if the cases do not decline, which they have not in recent days. Both the state and city collect and report their own data on cases and testing.

The governor did not identify the source of the infections, saying that the state was undergoing an analysis of the ZIP codes. New York City health officials have expressed concern about growing infections among the Orthodox Jewish community, especially in South Brooklyn. Last Friday, health officials held a press conference in Gravesend, where they were heckled by two members of the Orthodox community who shouted racial slurs and claimed the city's attempt to enforce social distancing was the work of "Nazi storm troopers."

Rockland and Orange counties are also home to a large number of Orthodox residents. Early in the crisis, Rockland County had the highest per capita rate of infection in the state.

Across the river in Westchester County, Cuomo in March ordered a one-mile "containment zone" around New Rochelle after more than 100 cases were linked to a “hotspot” near an attorney's home and his synagogue.

The governor also said that amid growing coronavirus cases around the world, he was planning to issue an executive order that would alert most international travelers about New York's mandatory quarantine rule, which has to date applied only to states with high infection rates. The alert would be issued to all those flying from countries identified by the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention as a either a moderate or high risk for COVID-19.

Cuomo said that the order would apply to all but 31 countries right now.

South Brooklyn & Queens Cluster Areas Could Face More Restrictions Starting This Week

Swaths of Brooklyn and Queens that have been experiencing an alarming rise in coronavirus cases may face crackdown measures from the city as early as Tuesday.

Together, parts of South Brooklyn and two neighborhoods in Queens, Far Rockaway and Kew Gardens, make up over 23% of the new cases citywide over the last two weeks, even though they represent below 7% of the city's overall population.

The Department of Health has set a Monday evening deadline for the situation to improve or else the city may resort to a range of new restrictions, from issuing fines for failure to wear a face mask to closing private schools and non-essential businesses. The latest data is not promising. As of Sunday afternoon, seven of eight neighborhoods saw caseloads rise based on the prior day’s report. The most concerning areas are in parts of South Brooklyn with high numbers of Orthodox Jewish New Yorkers, who currently observing the High Holidays.

Brooklyn's Gravesend, which has a significant Sephardic Jewish population, has a positivity rate of 6.75%, the highest of those on the city's watch list. It is followed by Midwood, which has a positivity of 5.34%. Borough Park and Bensonhurst both have positivity rates above 4%.

Also on Sunday, the city reported that two hospitals in Brooklyn and one in Queens have seen an uptick in the number of hospitalized patients, but the DOH did not specify the number of patients with COVID-19 or identify the hospitals. Three Orthodox men with coronavirus have died at Maimonides Hospital in south Brooklyn over four days, according to a source close to the community. Deaths and hospitalizations are typically lagging indicators to infections.

The citywide positivity rate has remained around 1%. The latest city's seven-day average of cases was 224, a decline since rising over 300 on September 16th.

The reports of COVID-19 upticks come as New York City is entering a new phase that experts worry will usher in a second wave or resurgence of cases. Beginning on Tuesday, public schools will reopen their doors to hundreds of children, while indoor dining is set to begin on Wednesday. Meanwhile, more and more employers are asking employees to return to the workplace.

Experts have told Gothamist that the trends are concerning. Denis Nash, an epidemiology professor at CUNY, said Sunday that he believed the city and the community both needed to redouble their efforts.

"I do think we are crossing into dangerous territory and the city needs to get very focused on strategies that can help these neighborhoods tamp down increases in community transmission," he said.