NYC Identifies New ZIP Codes of Concern; NJ Gov Closing in on New Restrictions

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy reported yet another day of new cases topping 2,000; the state has reported nearly 6,500 new cases since his last COVID briefing on Monday as its positivity rate soars

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What to Know

  • New York City, the former epicenter of the national crisis, has seen its key indicators rise considerably in recent weeks; it has topped 600 new daily cases, well above the mayor's threshold, for three days
  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy reported another day of new cases topping 2,000; asked how close he was to imposing new restrictions, he said, 'Close, so bear with us; we'll clearly be taking action'
  • Cases continue to surge across the United States, which reported more than 100,000 new ones Wednesday for the first time, smashing its own single-day record yet again

New York City's mayor is growing increasingly concerned as the five boroughs' core COVID metrics keep trending up, while New Jersey's governor blasted his state's soaring positivity rate Thursday as "unacceptable" -- to the point where he said "we'll clearly be taking action" as far as new restrictions.

The Garden State has seen nearly 6,500 new cases just since Gov. Phil Murphy's last COVID briefing on Monday; hospitalizations are three times what they were seven weeks ago. The numbers aren't much less concerning in New York City, which topped 600 new cases, well above the mayor's threshold, for the third straight day -- and the count only ticked higher with each report.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has described the latest numbers as reasons for "real concern," said Thursday that parts of Staten Island -- ZIP codes 10305 and 10314 -- were becoming problematic. Asked specifically about whether they needed new restrictions, the mayor said he felt those areas were more addressable than the spread in Brooklyn and Queens last month as long as the city acted quickly.

He didn't rule out the need for new restrictions, but that's not his call anyway. Any movement on that front would be necessitated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's order. In the meantime, de Blasio said the city would launch targeted outreach and testing campaigns to those Staten Island communities as it has done in other areas.

There is an uptick in COVID cases in two Staten Island zip codes that have a positivity rate about 3% each. Mayor Bill de Blasio said health officials are deploying a hyperlocal response to deal with the uptick.

"We have a challenge. We've identified it. We're acting on it," de Blasio said Thursday -- and urged residents of those areas to go get tested. His team of health officials said there was no particular event or situation causing the spike.

Staten Island, as of the latest state report, has the highest rolling seven-day positivity rate of all five boroughs by a fair amount (2.5 percent). It wasn't clear if de Blasio believed those ZIP codes were contributing to a case increase citywide.

On Thursday, the city's daily case average topped 600 (633) for the third time in three days, though new daily hospital admissions dipped back below 100 after hitting a recent high of 114 a day earlier. The seven-day rolling positivity average, which he calls the "most objective measure" of the city's standing in its ongoing coronavirus fight, stood at 1.81 percent Thursday, up from 1.74 percent the prior day. It has hovered in that area after a steady increase throughout October.

De Blasio had warned indoor dining could be shuttered across the five boroughs again if that rolling rate hits 2 percent. That would also be up to the governor, who continues to note progress in the state's remaining red zone areas.

The so-called red zones, which see total shutdowns and remain in place in parts of Brooklyn and Rockland County, have seen marked progress over the last month. The rolling positivity average in Brooklyn's red zone is 3.17 percent, down from 4.14 percent the week before and 5.86 percent three weeks before that. The Rockland County red zone has seen slower improvement, with a few upticks along the way, but its 3.82 percent positivity rate average as of Thursday is significantly lower than the 9.77 percent it saw Oct. 4-Oct. 10.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo oversamples the cluster areas on testing in an effort to stamp them out.

Some of the state's 10 regions are starting to see their rolling positivity rates tick up. Cuomo called out Western New York, which has a 2.8 percent rolling positivity rate, as an area of particular concern, as well as the Finger Lakes (2.6 percent).

The after-effects of the case increases are starting to become more apparent. Statewide, COVID hospitalizations are in the midst of a two-week stretch above 1,000 for the first time since breaking that streak in June. Thursday's hospitalizations were the highest since mid-June (1,277). More death may follow.

Nearly 3,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 in New York in one day, a milestone that illustrates the steady erosion of the progress the state made to get the virus under control this summer, according to state data released Thursday.

"The surge in cases around the country and the globe is a stark reminder that this pandemic is far from over, and while we are doing a good job keeping our positivity rate comparatively low, the numbers in Western New York are a caution flag," Cuomo said"We're staying on top of this situation by continuing our aggressive micro-cluster strategy, expanding testing capacity and enforcing compliance of the public health law. But New Yorkers must continue to practice the basic daily behaviors that make such a difference in our ability to slow the spread. Be vigilant, wear a mask, stay socially distanced and wash your hands."

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here


Cuomo has said weddings, birthdays and other private gatherings have fueled the spread, on top of universities and schools opening their doors. He has also pointed to public weariness of mask mandates and distancing rules.

“COVID fatigue is creeping up and there are serious caution flags in western New York, the Finger Lakes, and in other communities across the state, so it is more important than ever that we be vigilant,” he said.

That's also been the message in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy has yet to implement new statewide restrictions or targeted ones like Cuomo rolled out in parts of New York about a month ago. But he has said he's not opposed to another shutdown if the situation warrants, promising something may be coming. And his concern is mounting.

Murphy reported nearly 2,500 new COVID cases Wednesday for the second time in a week, again the highest daily total since early May. He declared in a press briefing about legalizing recreational pot (NJ said yes to that ballot question) that the second wave of coronavirus had begun. A day later, on Thursday, he reported more than 2,100 new cases yet again, bringing the state's total near 250,000.

The state said that hospitalizations have jumped from around 400 a day around seven weeks ago, to more than 1,200 as of Thursday.

Bergen, Essex and Passaic counties each reported more than 200 new cases overnight while another trio of counties each reported at least 100. Bergen County's daily case numbers are 10 times higher than in September. Since Murphy's most recent COVID briefing on Monday, the state has seen nearly 6,500. It's daily positivity rate for Sunday, the latest data Murphy had, was 7.74 percent.

He called that "unacceptable." The statewide transmission rate is 1.26, meaning each sick person infects more than one other person. That's an active outbreak. His health commissioner says most of the new cases are not easily traced back to a single exposure and are likely related to routine gatherings in private homes. She urged New Jerseyeans to wear masks even when with their own families.

Asked how close he was to implementing new restrictions, based on the increases, Murphy said, "Close, so bear with us. We'll clearly be taking action."

He didn't elaborate on what those actions might be or when they could be coming, but said the state was looking at a number of different options.

Absent new statewide restrictions, some cities have taken measures into their own hands, with Newark, Paterson and Hoboken among those to reimpose new local rules. Hoboken took its measures a step further Wednesday, authorizing local law enforcement to hand out $1,000 fines — skipping over warnings — to any individual who hosts parties of more than 25 people. It came just days after the mayor signed an executive order forcing bars and restaurants to close by midnight.

Murphy's administration has established hotspot teams to deploy to hotspot areas to assist with testing, contact tracing, isolation/quarantine and community outreach as needed, among other mitigation efforts.

Connecticut has also seen severe upticks as of late. Gov. Ned Lamont rolled back some of its reopenings in the last week. The rollback, called Phase 2.1, is set to take effect Friday.

It includes a reduction in indoor capacity for restaurants and event venues, and a 9:30 p.m. curfew for dine-in service. The governor was careful to say that they do not believe restaurants following the COVID-19 guidelines are the direct cause of any outbreaks, but with concerns about community spread, they believe the move is necessary.

The state on Thursday issued a statewide public health advisory for people to stay home and limit non-essential trips between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Additionally, the state is asking residents to keep Thanksgiving celebrations to 10 people or less as the state rolls back to Phase 2.1 beginning at midnight.

Gov. Ned Lamont said he believes limiting the size of private, indoor gatherings will limit the spread of the disease and also make tracking and tracing easier.

"It's a tough pill to swallow, I get it," Lamont said. "Do it now, do it this Thanksgiving, put up with it a little longer, we're going to be much better in a long-term."

The tri-state struggles are consistent with the trends nationally, as the U.S. grapples with a surge that has left no state untouched. The country has broken its single-day case record about a half-dozen times in the last two weeks and reported more than 120,000 new cases Thursday for the first time, eclipsing the the previous high from the day before by more than 15,000.

NBC New York's Tracie Strahan reports.

Overall, the states' positivity rates remain well below the national average. New York vacillates between the second- or third-lowest in the nation; some states seeing rampant virus spread have positivity rates more than 30 times higher, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Still, local tourism remains on the downslope. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum announced Thursday it was reducing its number of open-public days to three from five starting Nov. 16, citing the ongoing pandemic. It will temporarily close entirely starting Jan. 4 and plans to reopen in late March 2021.

The surging cases and hospitalizations across the tri-state area and the country reflect the challenge that either President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden, whoever wins the still-undecided presidential election, will face in the coming months over the pandemic, with winter and the holidays approaching.

Murphy pleaded with New Jerseyeans once again Thursday, as he has done in every briefing in recent weeks, to keep their Thanksgiving tables small -- ideally featuring their immediate households only -- and to avoid nonessential travel.

"We do not want anyone’s Thanksgiving to lead to more cases of COVID-19," he said.

Public health experts say the country won't return to any semblance of normal well after an effective vaccine is available, given concerns about delivery, distribution and administration of any treatment. Cuomo and Murphy have both shared their initial vaccine rollout plans; both describe it as a momentous task. In New York, Cuomo has expressed doubt one would be deliverable by year's end.

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