City tracking small COVID-19 outbreak in Borough Park

The Orthodox Jewish community reacts during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York
Pedestrians in Borough Park during the early days of the pandemic.
Reuters/Caitlin Ochs

The city’s Test and Trace Corps are tracking a small outbreak of COVID-19 in Borough Park, Mayor de Blasio announced Wednesday. 

The central Brooklyn neighborhood has seen 16 new cases in the past week, according to the mayor, who said many of the infections were linked to a large wedding that recently took place.

In response to the outbreak, the city will ramp up outreach efforts in Borough Park, with the hopes of increasing testing and getting more people to wear masks when out and about in the neighborhood. 

“We want to get the message out that people need to get tested, that people need to wear face coverings, that we need to avoid those large gatherings,” said de Blasio, who added that City Hall will coordinate with community leaders and houses of worship in the neighborhood to distribute face coverings and encourage locals to get tested.

News of the outbreak in Borough Park comes after initial warning of an uptick in neighboring Sunset Park, where the positivity rate for coronavirus tests reached 7 percent in recent weeks — and where locals said the city’s testing efforts did not go far enough. After contact tracers “saturated” the neighborhood, it was determined that most of the spread was through people living together, rather than a neighborhood-wide cluster, the mayor said on Monday.

This isn’t Borough Park’s first time in the news amid the ongoing pandemic. The neighborhood was hit hard during the virus’ peak — city data shows that 46.8 percent of its residents have coronavirus antibodies, one of the highest rates in the city — and was criticized early on for skirting state mandates.

In May, the New York Post found that many businesses in the neighborhood were flouting coronavirus restrictions, with people shopping inside retail stores before the city began its reopening phases. In June, NY1 reported on a yeshiva in the heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhood that appeared to be teaching students inside.

Despite the uptick in Borough Park, New York City’s coronavirus indicators were startlingly low on Wednesday, with just 0.24 percent of tests coming back positive — the lowest citywide since the start of the pandemic in March when positivity rates reached 70 percent.

“This is striking,” the mayor said. “This should be a clarion call to all of us. The more we can do to beat back this virus, the more we can do to bring back this city.”