The New York City Department of Health sounded the alarm once again about the eight ZIP codes in Brooklyn and Queens with high coronavirus positivity rates—and added four more ZIP codes where cases are starting to increase.

The initial eight ZIP codes all have positivity rates above 3%—well over the citywide positivity rate of 1%:

  • Gravesend/Homecrest (6.73%)
  • Midwood (5.22%)
  • Kew Gardens (3.53%)
  • Edgemere/Far Rockaway (4.03%)
  • Borough Park (4.20%)
  • Bensonhurst/Mapleton (3.81%)
  • Gerritsen Beach/Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay (3.57%)
  • Flatlands/Midwood (3.40%)

"These areas account for over 23% of new cases citywide over the past two weeks despite representing just under 7% of the City’s overall population," the DOH said in a statement. "The growth of cases in these ZIP codes is 3.3 times the citywide average over the past 14 days."

Four other ZIP codes were named as having "increased growth of cases and test positivity between 2% and 3%":

  • Rego Park (2.46%)
  • Kew Gardens Hills/Pomonok (2.36%)
  • Kensington/Windsor Terrace (2.31%)
  • Brighton Beach/Manhattan Beach/Sheepshead Bay (2.21%)

These neighborhoods are adjacent to communities with positivity rates of 3% or more. Williamsburg is also being monitored by the DOH; its positivity rate there is 1.72%, but apparently cases are increasing more quickly there than other ZIP codes.

The city's worries about these areas were first disclosed on Tuesday, with the DOH emphasizing the importance of wearing masks; avoiding large indoor gatherings; getting tested for COVID-19; and warning that the presence of antibodies means does not necessarily mean one can arrive to work or school. An outreach effort was soon launched, and then the city later said schools could be shut down and restrictions to the reopening could be introduced after Monday if cases continue to climb. Schools in those areas that continue to skirt social distancing rules can face a $1,000 fine.

Many of the affected ZIP codes have large Orthodox Jewish populations, where members have been observed not wearing masks and having large indoor gatherings. Last week, one barista at a kosher cafe in Borough Park told Gothamist that Orthodox communities were hit hard during the height of the pandemic in March and April "because people weren’t cautious enough." But now, he explained, "95% of people here have antibodies."

In Borough Park, 43.9% of people tested have antibodies; the president of NYC's public hospital system, Dr. Mitchell Katz, says herd immunity would only occur if 80% of people had antibodies. Another troubling indicator is that hospitalizations have been increasing at a south Brooklyn hospital. A source close to the community confirmed that three Orthodox men have died at Maimonides Hospital—which is in south Brooklyn—over four days.

Orthodox Jewish lawmakers have contended that the de Blasio administration's efforts are long overdue.

After reviewing the latest positivity rates for these areas, Jeffrey Shaman, a public health professor at Columbia University, said he was concerned. "Between school reopening, control fatigue, the Jewish holidays, more time spent indoors, I see more opportunities for person-to-person transmission," he told Gothamist.