Parts of Staten Island and upper Manhattan will soon see new pandemic restrictions if the number of positive COVID-19 tests continues to rise at its current rate, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday.
"We have several communities that are in the warning track," Cuomo said during a press briefing in Manhattan.
Parts of Staten Island will go into orange and red zones "at the current rate," Cuomo warned ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Upper Manhattan is poised to go into a yellow zone, in addition to parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties. Syracuse and Rochester would see more orange zones.
"Unless they dramatically change the trajectory of the infection rate, this week they will go into those zones," Cuomo told reporters.
The governor added that Staten Island is a particular concern.
"Staten Island is a serious problem. Staten Island is also a problem in terms of overburdening hospitals, and we're running into a hospital capacity issue on Staten Island that we have to be dealing with over the next few days," he said. The exact maps of zoned restrictions have not yet been released.
The increased spread of the virus has put New York State at a 2.7% positive testing rate over a seven-day average on Saturday.
Without the cluster zones, NY has a 2.2% test positivity rate. Cluster zones scattered across the state have a 4.39% positivity rate.
Cuomo has implemented a "micro-cluster" strategy with zoned restrictions intended to curb cases, targeting hyperlocal swaths of the state.
Currently, neighborhoods in Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island all have sections under yellow zone restrictions. Under a yellow zone, houses of worship are capped at a 50% capacity and mass gatherings can be no more than 25 people, and though businesses can remain open, restaurants can serve a maximum of four people per table indoors. Schools remain open with a mandatory testing requirement.
An orange zone caps houses of worship at 33% and gatherings are limited to 10 people inside and outside, but nonessential businesses and indoor dining close. Schools go remote, with an option to for individual schools "test out" of the in-person instruction closures by conducting COVID-tests of faculty, students, and staff.
Red zones are effectively a version of a stay-at-home policy in which gatherings are banned unless it is at a house of worship, which are capped at 25% capacity. Restaurants return to takeout and delivery only, and schools are remote with the same "test out" option.
Last week, the governor said all of NYC could soon go into an orange zone. The city reached a 2.5% positivity rate under the governor's measure that should send the city into a yellow zone—but it isn't clear why the governor hasn't already put NYC under the first-tier of restrictions.
The governor said after the holiday season—January 1st and into the middle of the month—the state will see the "collective impact" of the holidays on the spread of the virus.
"You could see our whole scale change by the time this is over," Cuomo said. "I would not be shocked if they said on January 10th, January 15th, we're up at 7, 8, 9, 10 percent. That could very easily happen if we are irresponsible. It could even be higher if we are irresponsible."
To make matters more confusing on what zoned restrictions could be implemented where you live, the state and the city have different definitions of how test positivity rates are measured.
The governor said Sunday the difference was "irrelevant" because the state has ultimate control. But health experts have said it is important that local health officials verify the state's numbers.
Hospitalizations rose by 119 to 2,562 statewide and intensive care unit patients rose 35 to 502 across the state, Cuomo said. Thirty people died from coronavirus in New York on Saturday, according to the governor.