Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday that he would relax coronavirus restrictions in parts of Brooklyn and lift them entirely in Far Rockaway, Queens, after ordering a tiered shutdown in those areas more than a month ago.
So-called "red zones" in South Brooklyn where non-essential businesses and schools were forced to close will now be reduced in size by 50% as will the borough's "yellow zones," which had no closures but saw increased restrictions on gatherings in houses of worship and public places. A map of the new zones can be accessed here.
Last week, the governor said all closed schools in the state's designated hotspots could reopen as long as they meet new testing rules, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wanted to wait to see if the state lifted any restrictions.
The move comes as the most concerning parts of Brooklyn and Queens have experienced a gradual decline in virus transmission over the last month, with decreases in weekly case counts. As of last Saturday, weekly case rates in Borough Park declined 25% from the prior week, and 13% in a portion of Gravesend.
In Far Rockaway in Queens, where the governor said all restrictions will be removed, weekly case rates fell by 9% in a one week period—but 44% over two weeks.
The yellow zone in the Queens' neighborhood of Kew Gardens will remain unchanged, Cuomo said. The governor did not specify any changes to Ozone Park, another yellow zone in Queens.
In announcing the revised restrictions, Cuomo declared that the state's "micro cluster approach," in which shutdowns and new restrictions are limited to defined geographic areas, had been successful.
"It's working in Queens, it's working in Brooklyn," he said, during a phone call with reporters.
But even as the spread of the virus appear to be slowing in hotspots, transmission is creeping up in other parts of New York City.
There are currently 70 ZIP codes out of 177 citywide showing an average test positivity rate over 2%, up from 67 the prior week. Fourteen of those ZIP codes are above 3%, compared to 16 last week.
In keeping with higher test positivity rates, the number of new cases citywide have been steadily climbing. During his Friday morning appearance on The Brian Lehrer Show, Mayor Bill de Blasio reported that the average number of new daily cases had now risen to 702.
It marked the seventh straight day where new infections surpassed a warning threshold of 550 cases.
"That’s a problem," de Blasio said. "That says we are now really threatened with the second wave if we don't get a handle on this."
The prospect of a major resurgence of the virus has prompted some elected officials to call on the mayor to release daily updated infection data broken down by ZIP code. The city's health department currently provides weekly updates by ZIP code.
The mayor had initially expressed some reluctance to provide more ZIP code data, saying that they did not match up with the zoned boundaries imposed by the state. But on Friday, he said the city would release more ZIP code data beginning next week.
Cuomo pointed to emerging hotspots in other parts of the state, including western New York and Erie County, which is home to the city of Buffalo.
Two suburban areas outside the city, Rockland and Orange County will also have restrictions eased. At the same time, the governor said Port Chester in Westchester County, which went from 96 to 119 virus cases between Thursday and Friday, will be designated a yellow zone.