What to know
- Starting Friday, heavy fines will be imposed for violating the new COVID restrictions that went into effect in NYC the day before. Mass gathering violations can cost up to $ 15,000 per day
- The new restrictions are based on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s color-coded cluster areas. In the red zones, the strictest rules apply, which are valid for at least two weeks, but may apply longer
- They’re coming as New York State has its highest COVID hospital stays since July and the daily average case in NYC is over 500. New Jersey is also seeing upward trends in cases and hospitalizations
New York City will impose heavy fines on Friday as the city and state step up enforcement of new COVID restrictions amid month-long hospital stay highs followed by soaring hotspot infection rates.
Penalties of up to $ 1
Different restrictions apply in the areas of the orange and red cluster zones, although schools are only allowed to stay in person, with mandatory weekly tests being required in the latter. The new restrictions apply for a minimum of two weeks. They won’t lift until the infection rate trend goes back to the numbers New York saw this summer.
The announcement of the cluster zones earlier this week sparked violent protests, mainly from badly affected religious communities, who criticized the renewed restrictions on places of worship. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said the rules are not focused, but based on science and data – and reflect areas he believes are in violation of COVID precautions and allowed the spikes in the first place.
The New York restrictions, which apply to clusters in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Orange, Rockland and Broome counties, only affect about 6 percent of the state’s total population, the governor said. The same 6 percent of the state’s population has caused roughly a quarter of the daily new COVID cases recently. Twenty hotspot zip codes have a positivity rate of 5.8 percent, more than five times the national average and well above the New York City average for the past few weeks.
While the overall infection rate remains low, total COVID hospital stays both nationwide and in the city are reaching recent highs. Cuomo reported a total of 754 hospitalizations in New York on Thursday, the highest number since July 16. The daily average of COVID cases in New York City nearly doubled in the past month.
Neighboring New Jersey is struggling to stem the upward trend in two counties as well – Counties Ocean and Monmouth. Governor Phil Murphy reported 1,301 new cases in his briefing Thursday, the highest daily number since late May. He also recorded 652 hospitalizations, the highest number since August 5.
When asked if indoor restrictions might resume in New Jersey, Murphy said Thursday, “Every option remains on the table. Could we see movement at indoor gatherings? Maybe.” He noted that there was no evidence that the indoor eating, which the state resumed after a delay last month, contributed.
Protests broke out in Brooklyn’s Borough Park on Tuesday and Wednesday nights after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new restrictions on schools, businesses and places of worship in some parts of the city and state. Ray Villeda and Checkey Beckford from NBC New York report.
The New Jersey health commissioner said Thursday that about 15 percent of this state’s new cases could be related to the September church service, which celebrates the holiest days on the Jewish calendar. She pointed to 206 new cases in Lakewood that have had positivity rates above the national average and that are predominantly made up of white non-Latino men ages 19 to 49.
The heightened concerns in both states are accompanied by heightened concerns about the fall season in general. Cuomo has warned that the overall low infection rate in New York, even without the cluster areas in the fall, may not be sustainable.
Fall means cooler weather, which means more indoor activities. It means flu season. It means schools – if they can safely stay open. New Jersey has confirmed 16 public school-related outbreaks, with a total of 58 cases reported.
Daily percentage of positive tests by New York region
Governor Andrew Cuomo is dividing the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracking positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here is the latest tracking data by region. Click here for the latest county-level statewide results
The two states combined have lost at least 41,700 people to the virus to date, according to estimates by NBC News, nearly a fifth of the death toll in the nation.
At least 21,000 people have been lost in New York City alone, including deaths likely to be caused by COVID but not clearly linked to it by diagnosis. The CDC has said that another 5,000 more deaths could be attributed in some way to it.
Nationwide, the death toll has risen in the past two months, topping 213,000 with more than 7.5 million confirmed cases, according to the latest estimates by NBC News. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said Thursday he would be dissatisfied with the scale of COVID cases as the US enters fall and winter.
The U.S. reports around 40,000 new coronavirus cases daily, which may get worse as temperatures cooler and people go inside, Fauci said during an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “I’m not comfortable with it. I would like to see this level well below 10,000.”
Globally, confirmed COVID deaths have exceeded 1 million, despite officials acknowledging that the actual toll is likely to be significantly higher than the reported one.