Parts Of LI Headed To Yellow Micro-Cluster Zones: Cuomo | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools

LONG ISLAND, NY — Without a “drastic” shift in numbers and the behavior of residents, parts of Long Island are headed to the yellow micro-cluster zone designation, perhaps as soon as this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

Those yellow micro-cluster zones could be designated in both Suffolk and Nassau Counties, Cuomo said.

Discussing areas of the city — including Staten Island, a “serious problem”, where areas could soon be designated red and orange zones — Cuomo said parts of Nassau and Suffolk are headed for yellow zones. “Unless they drastically change the trajectory rate, they will go into those zones this week,” he said.

Micro-cluster designations are based on a geographic area’s seven-day average positivity rate being above a threshold for 10 days straight; for example, a sustained increase where contact tracing data points to community spread rather than isolated outbreaks, Cuomo has said.

Also, according to Cuomo’s metrics, the state considers the rate of cases per 100,000 residents; hospitalizations; any links to congregate facilities, and other epidemiological factors. Zones are created based on case prevalence data and in consultation with the local health department, Cuomo has said.

To move into a yellow zone designation in Nassau and Suffolk, the geographic area must have a seven-day rolling average positivity above 2.5 percent for 10 days, and the geographic area must have 10 or more daily cases per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average.

In a yellow zone, houses of worship can operate at 50 percent capacity; mass gatherings can include only 25 people or more indoor or outdoor; businesses remain open; indoor and outdoor dining would allow only four people per table; and schools would remain open, with a mandatory 20 percent weekly testing of students and teachers/staff for in-person settings.

On Sunday, Cuomo said New York’s positivity rate remains among the fourth lowest nationwide but said residents should be concerned about what that rate is in their individual community, because that will determine whether the area moves into a yellow, orange or red zone.

With Thanksgiving coming, Cuomo said he believes there will be an increase in the positivity rates, with those results seen around December 1 through 10. After Thanksgiving, he said, there is a period of “hyper social activity” during the holiday season, with the collective results of people’s actions seen around January 2 through 15.

“I would not be shocked on Jan. 10 or Jan. 15 if we are up at 7,8 9 or 10 percent,” Cuomo said.

An uptick in positivity rate is not just bad for the economy and a burden for the hospital systems, he said. “People will die, and that’s a fact,” he said.

For those who say the vaccine is coming, Cuomo said he believes it will be headed first to high-need populations such as nursing homes. “I will wager it will be six months at a minimum before the critical mass is met,” he said.

On Sunday, New York’s positivity rate for micro-cluster zones stood at 4.3 percent; the rate statewide without micro-clusters was at 2.2 percent, and with micro-cluster zones, that rate was 2.7 percent. A total of 30 people died over the past 24 hours he said, with 2,562 hospitalized, 500 in ICU and 234 intubated.

Earlier this week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the goal is to stop community spread so that Cuomo’s micro-cluster restrictions will not need to be implemented.

The surge in cases countywide has been seen over the past 10 days, Bellone said.

On Thurday, Bellone announced a new measure to try and stop community spread: Targeted testing began at the Hampton Bays Union Free School District, and commenced at the Riverhead Central School District on Friday. It is the first targeted school-based testing on Long Island, he said. The tests are paid for by New York State and results are available onsite in 15 minutes and uploaded into the state’s database in real time, he said.

A total of 400 free tests will be administered in Hamptons Bays.

When asked if the higher numbers in Riverhead and Hampton Bays could trigger a micro-cluster designation by New York State, Bellone said the surge in cases is “broad-based community spread across Suffolk County. Even with this broad-based spread, we know we may see numbers spike in communities. Whether it’s a reflection of higher number or a statistical anomaly, or both, we are not going to wait to find out. We are going to be proactive. That’s what this testing is about. It’s part of a larger effort to get our arms around numbers and stop the surge in the county.”

In addition to the testing at the two school districts, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital will also be doing community-based testing at Red Creek Park in Hamptons Bays for two weeks, with a second location to follow in Riverhead, Bellone said.

According to Cuomo representative Jack Sterne: “As temperatures cool, cases are rising — just like the experts predicted — and we are monitoring increases across the state. We are working with Suffolk and Nassau County to monitor and address troubling spikes in some communities on Long Island and increase testing and enforcement. The New York State Department of Health will designate cluster zones if the metrics are reached. We need all NYers to shake off COVID fatigue and wear masks, socially distance, get tested, and wash their hands.”

On Thursday, Cuomo warned against the continuing surge: “From here to January is very dangerous. A vaccine is on the way — not in any timeframe that is going to make a difference to the immediate future.”

With Thanksgiving coming, the biggest concern is that the numbers will surge higher, Bellone said.

The goal is to protect public health, ensure that the region’s economic recovery continues moving forward and keep children in school for in-person learning, Bellone said.

To that end, a comprehensive approach to tackling the uptick has been adopted, including ramped up contact tracing and case investigation, with the number of contract tracers going from 30 to 150 in just over a week, Bellone said.

In addition, enforcement efforts have escalated, fire marshals and consumer affairs teams are going to be out on Thanksgiving Eve to ensure Cuomo’s new restrictions are enforced — including at home gatherings of no more than 10 people and bars and restaurants closing by 10 p.m. The county has also teamed up with Partners in Prevention to spread the message about Suffolk’s Social Host Law and Cuomo’s new restrictions on social media.

With coronavirus cases spiking across Suffolk County, the town of Riverhead has been identified as a potential micro-cluster, Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said Wednesday.

The governor has laid out the metrics for the different levels of micro-cluster zones and explained what thresholds need to be met before a region receives that designation.

“What’s happening here? Why are we seeing this pretty abrupt surge?” Bellone asked recently.

The answer, he said, is not only superspreader events such as a wedding at the North Fork Country Club, but small gatherings during Halloween. So far, county officials are investigating at least one Halloween party and there may be others, he said.

Those small gatherings may not be in violation of the state limit of 50 people or fewer, Bellone said. A Bellport birthday party fell within the state guidelines of 50 individuals but 36 of those who attended tested positive for the coronavirus, the county executive said.

“This is an example of what can happen at these small gatherings,” Bellone said. “It’s critical that we get this under control.”

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