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On Saturday, the state of New York reported its first day with 1,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time since early June, when most of the state’s regions were still in the early phase of reopening. By Monday, in the former coronavirus epicenter of New York City, the sharp rise in cases prompted a warning from Governor Andrew Cuomo, after the city’s positive test results jumped from 1.5 percent to 1.93 percent in a week. The statewide rate is at 1.58 percent, also well above its summer average.
“The virus isn’t tired,” Cuomo said on Monday. “It’s no time to get tired.” And while daily caseloads remain higher in other states — Florida reported almost 3,000 new cases on Saturday — New York’s leaders and residents are anxious about the prospect that cases will rise sharply as the weather cools and schools reopen. At the height of the pandemic in the city in April, positive tests frequently topped 9,000 per day, despite limited testing access and city officials encouraging people not to seek out a test unless they were experiencing symptoms.
On Monday, Cuomo also stated that much of the increase could be traced to small outbreaks in Brooklyn as well as some in Rockland and Orange counties in the Hudson Valley. As the New York Times notes, public-health officials “are particularly concerned about eight neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, some with large Orthodox Jewish communities, that have accounted for about one-fourth of New York City’s new cases in the past two weeks despite representing about 7 percent of the city’s population.”
To combat the uptick, Cuomo encouraged New Yorkers to be resilient about “mask compliance,” and last week NYC public-health officials instituted emergency inspections at some private Orthodox schools, warning that businesses or schools may be closed if social-distancing guidelines are not adhered to. In his Monday press conference, Cuomo announced that schools and city governments in places where cases are rising would have access to 200 rapid-testing machines to better understand the potential for outbreaks.
With a 1.93 percent positive testing rate, New York City is veering dangerously close to the 3 percent automatic cutoff point that Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced for school shutdowns, even though all the city’s schools have yet to physically open.