New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday continued to push the state to approve a plan to shutter nonessential businesses in neighborhoods seeing surges in Covid-19 cases, an added measure to help the city avert a second wave.
The plan would close business in nine ZIP Codes in southern Brooklyn and Queens. The decision on closures is ultimately up to the state, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that ZIP Codes are a flawed way to draw boundaries on closures. Mr. de Blasio said at a press conference that the city will work with whatever model the state chooses.
“The facts on the ground make clear that we need restrictions,” said Mr. de Blasio. “We need something stronger and we need it quickly.”
City officials asked the state on Sunday to close schools and nonessential businesses by Wednesday. Mr. Cuomo on Monday agreed only to the closure of about 300 public and private schools in the hot-spot areas.
The schools closed on Tuesday. They will remain shut for at least two weeks, said Mr. de Blasio, but may remain closed for four. He said it is possible for residents in the area to turn the tide on the positivity rates, but it requires total participation.
“If we do it wrong, it keeps spreading into surrounding ZIP Codes,” the mayor said.
Mr. Cuomo said Monday that schools are a place where the disease transmits easily, whereas small businesses, like the kind in the affected areas, aren’t major places of transmission. Mr. de Blasio said data reviewed from 1,600 public schools, with targeted testing, shows there is “a low level of coronavirus activity” and schools are a particularly safe location.
Mr. Cuomo has called for more enforcement of public-safety measures at businesses and religious gatherings in Brooklyn and Queens, and said state officials will supervise those enforcement activities. Mr. Cuomo also asked for a closer review of the nine hot-spot ZIP Codes as a way to better determine which areas should be shut down.
Dave A. Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said at Tuesday’s press conference that ZIP Codes remain the best geographic way to set boundaries, and the city needs to move quickly. “The plans that we have proposed to the state are meant to be able to be brought into action as quickly as possible,” he said.
The transmission rate of Covid-19 in New York City remains low, at 1.65% over an average of seven days. In the hot-spot neighborhoods, the rate of people testing positive for the disease has been above 3% for seven consecutive days, Mr. de Blasio said.
Thirteen communities adjacent to the nine hot-spot areas are also seeing increased rates of positivity, the mayor said. He called those “second tier” areas and said they were at risk of going above a 3% positivity rate.
The number of people testing positive since mid-September has been on the rise, with the most-recent seven-day average hitting 501 people. A city threshold for new coronavirus cases is 550, an indicator that was set months ago as part of measures rolled out for the reopening of the city in June.
A spokesman for the city’s health department said multiple indicators are used to monitor whether additional action must be taken, “but we have not used that single 550 metric as a threshold for decision-making. That said, the data has spurred our proposed action in the nine neighborhoods of concern.”
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