The city's effort to get New Yorkers inoculated against COVID-19 is struggling to get off the ground as the virus continues to soar in parts of the five boroughs. In the past few weeks, COVID-19 has intensified in six ZIP codes in the Bronx—the state's unhealthiest county—putting them in the top 25 ZIP codes in NYC with high seven-day positive testing rates for the virus.

Though testing shows COVID-19 is currently more prevalent in Staten Island, the Bronx is a close second, and city health figures show Bronx ZIP codes with consistently high COVID testing rates, including 10474 in Hunts Point, with a seven-day average positivity rate of 13.17%; 10459 in Charlotte Gardens with a 13.6% rate; 10452 in Concourse/Highbridge 13.92%; 10472 in Soundview with 13.73%; 10465 in Throggs Neck with 15.02%; and 10470, which covers a large swath of the north Bronx, with 12.9%.

For comparison, the borough of Manhattan has an average positive testing rate of 4.72%.

The news comes as the city plans to open a round-the-clock vaccination site at Bathgate Industrial Park in the Bronx neighborhood of Claremont on Sunday.

Just why these positivity rates are increasing remains unclear, though city health officials have pointed to large gatherings of ten or more and direct contact with an infected household member to be major contributing factors to viral transmission. A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about what's being done for the high-rate ZIP codes.

The 10470 ZIP code covers Woodlawn and Wakefield, two vastly distinct neighborhoods whose common denominator is their close proximity to Westchester County. Unlike New York City, restaurants and bars are still allowed to be open for limited indoor dining in the neighboring county, attracting residents from both neighborhoods to frequent them, particularly in Yonkers.

"I got COVID mid-December. So I would be part of that spike," Erin Lee, a Woodlawn resident who works in real estate, said. "And yeah, I know at least 10 people who, in December, got COVID that live in Woodlawn."

The sleepy enclave—made up of detached, single-family homes with low-rise residential buildings—borders a section of Yonkers comprised of several bars and restaurants. They include McKeon's Bar and Irish Coffeeshop which remains open for indoor dining, attracting Woodlawn residents within walking distance. While Yonkers remains open for indoor dining, it comes at a time when it's seeing 2,320 active COVID-19 cases, the highest than any part of the county, according to health figures.

Lee has noticed a crush of residents now packing the Yonkers bars, with nearly no social distancing. The high rates have left her wondering whether the new UK variant—a more contagious COVID-19 strain that's now been detected in Saratoga—has infiltrated the neighborhood.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, whose district covers Woodlawn, has noticed that even with constant reminders to wear masks to ward off the spread, some residents have ignored those warnings. In some instances, he's seen residents out in public without wearing any mask. Lack of mask compliance was prevalent in parts of Brooklyn despite an explosion of COVID-19 rates that led the state imposing a color-coded hotspot system.

"Some people think it's their right—they don't want the government telling them what to do. I feel so bad for them," Dinowitz said. "The sacrifice people are being asked to make is putting on a damn mask. And yet to some people, that's too much. That's really pathetic when you think about it."

A city-operated mobile testing site is now expected to be dispatched to the area.

Mask defiance has also been observed by Fredda Tourin, a Bronx resident who's volunteered to help in mask giveaway events that Dinowitz has previously hosted in the neighborhood.

"Did they wear them? Highly unlikely," Tourin said. "There's a little bit of, I guess, resistance to authority."

But even if residents are compliant, many in Woodlawn and Wakefield are deemed essential workers who must show up for work, increasing the likelihood of exposure.

"I think that has always played into the exposure risk in Woodlawn," Lee said. "My husband's a firefighter, and so I've heard they're back to transporting COVID patients to the hospital and around the city."

Lack of mask compliance is problematic in parts of Wakefield, a neighborhood that's predominantly home to Black residents, who are 2.8 times more likely to die from the virus when compared to whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"They'll have a mask on, but they'll wear it below the belt, just blocking the mouth," George Torres, the district manager of Bronx Community Board 12, which covers Woodlawn and Wakefield. "Or you have people who still wear it as chin straps. And again, you have people who just don't wear it at all."

In Hunts Point, a largely Hispanic neighborhood with exceedingly high comorbidity rates such as asthma and heart disease—which also contribute to COVID-19 hospitalization rates—lack of mask compliance remains an ongoing issue. Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr., who represents the neighborhoods, has consistently noticed some ignoring the rules, and since hosted numerous mask giveaway events for greater cooperation.

"Certain individuals I guess, because they feel they're just out in the open area [...] their behavior is different in terms of wearing a face mask," Salamanca Jr. told Gothamist/WNYC. "But I could say the majority of my constituents are doing their part."

The area is also largely home to working poor Hispanic residents, where multi-generational homes are common among Hispanics, increasing the chance of exposure if even one person in the home is infected.

"There's no space to social distance," Salamanca Jr.—who's repurposed his district office into a testing clinic—said.

Jasmine Gomez, a resident in neighboring Longwood, has noticed fewer residents wearing masks in Hunts Point neighborhood just as locals wait on long testing lines. In knowing friends who live in multi-generational homes in the neighborhood, the chance of contracting the virus is simply a matter of time, she said.

"For some people it's really just inevitable," Gomez said.

During the first wave of COVID-19 in the spring, the Bronx had a higher per-capita death rate than the rest of the boroughs, but has since been surpassed by Staten Island. The total official COVID-19 death toll for the Bronx stands at 4,209, with another 944 deaths considered "probable" as a result of the virus, according to city Health Department data.