ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Restrictions in some New York City pandemic hotspots will be rolled back, even as the state prepares to combat virus flare-ups upstate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
The governor said he's considering imposing additional social distancing restrictions in “microcluster” zones in the Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse areas because of rising infection rates.
The addition of more of those zones upstate reflect the shifting state strategy as COVID-19 becomes a worsening problem beyond New York City, once an epicenter of the pandemic.
The governor also said the National Guard will increase its presence at airports to help make sure travelers from non-neighboring states can provide proof of a negative coronavirus test.
“In general, downstate New York is doing better than upstate New York, which is a total reversal from the first phase of COVID,” Cuomo said during a telephone briefing.
With numbers improving in some New York City-area hotspots, restrictions on businesses, schools and mass gatherings in those areas are being lifted or lightened.
Yellow-zone restrictions, the least onerous, were being lifted in Far Rockaway in Queens. The Brooklyn red-zone area, the most restrictive of three color-coded levels, will be reduced by 50%, as will the yellow buffer zone. North of the city, red zones in Rockland and Orange counties will change, respectively, to orange and yellow, Cuomo said.
New York has averaged 2,370 new positive cases a day over the past seven days, up from a low of around 600 new cases daily in late August. The state reported more than 3,200 new infections statewide Thursday, the highest one-day total since May 6.
Hospitalization rates have been slowly climbing, too, and the state tallied 18 additional deaths Thursday.
Infection rates have been particularly alarming in Buffalo and parts of surrounding Erie County, Rochester and Monroe County and Syracuse and Onondaga County. Cuomo said his administration would talk to elected officials in those areas over the weekend to come up with tailored regional strategies he could announce Monday.
The village of Port Chester on the Connecticut border will also come under yellow-zone restrictions, the governor said.
New York on Wednesday began requiring travelers from non-neighboring states to get a coronavirus test before, and after, they arrive if they want to avoid a full 14-day quarantine.
With the Thanksgiving travel season imminent, Cuomo said Friday he’s increasing the National Guard presence at airports and spoke to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio about using more New York City police officers for enforcement.
“I want people to know we’re serious," he said.
He did not provide details on how frequently travelers would be checked and his administration did not answer emails seeking clarification.
Meanwhile, more than 1,600 voters who cast ballots at one polling site in New York's Hudson Valley on Election Day are being advised to get tested for the coronavirus after a poll worker tested positive.
The worker was stationed at the East Fishkill Community Center in Hopewell Junction, the Dutchess County Health Department said in an advisory Thursday evening.
Poll workers who had “sustained contact” with their infected colleague are quarantining and will be tested, the agency said.
Some 1,657 votes were cast there Tuesday, but only a fraction of the voters would have interacted with the infected poll worker, as voters were directed to different parts of the polling place according to their voting district, county spokesperson Colleen Pilius said Friday.
The Health Department said the risk to voters is “minimal" because the infected poll worker was wearing a mask, keeping physical distance and following other precautions. Still, Commissioner Dr. Anil Vaidian encouraged anyone who cast a ballot at the community center Tuesday to get tested and be alert for any signs of COVID-19 symptoms.
By MICHAEL HILL Associated Press