‘Red zone’ COVID-19 cases causing spike in hospitalizations statewide

red zone
A patient arrives outside Maimonides Medical Center, as the spread of COVID-19 continues in Borough Park.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

More than 900 New Yorkers were hospitalized on Monday while battling COVID-19 symptoms — the highest statewide number in months — largely due to the increase in cases in “red zones” where cases are clustered.

More than 70 percent of coronavirus cases statewide on Monday hailed from red zones, districts with daily COVID-19 positivity rates above three percent, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. The COVID-19 rates in these hotspots raise the statewide level from 1.05 percent to 1.12 percent.

However, coronavirus cases have begun tapering off in Southern Brooklyn, where a large red zone stretches from Borough Park to Flatlands to Gravesend. Between the week on Sept. 27 and Sunday, Oct. 11, the number of daily COVID-19 tests coming back positive fell from 6.69 percent to 4.54 percent. Monday, however, saw a small uptick in cases with a 5.94 positivity rate. 

The overall decrease in cases lines up with a slight downward trend citywide, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said fewer than 100 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms as of Wednesday.

“Today’s report is 76 patients, with a confirmed positivity rate for COVID-19 at 25.3 percent,” he said at a Wednesday press conference. 

Though the positivity rates have dipped, the number of new cases still hovers just beneath crisis levels. The city’s threshold for new cases per day in 550, and the city reported 512 new cases on Wednesday. 

Hospitalization rates and daily positivity rates still remain below their thresholds. Wednesday saw 76 new hospital patients — less than half of the crisis level of 200 — and a positivity rate of 1.13 percent, well below the five percent cutoff. 

“There you see some leveling off, some good news, but we’ve got a lot of work to do to keep it that way and then make it much, much better,” de Blasio said. 

If the city surpasses any of the thresholds, local leaders would likely implement a larger containment effort, such as more widespread lockdowns.  

Now, the state and city are working to contain the outbreaks in each cluster in southern Brooklyn, Queens, Rockland County, and Broome County. Though those red zones are home to only 2.8 percent of state’s population, they accounted for 17.6 percent of all positive cases reported last week to New York State, Cuomo said. 

“Our numbers overall continue to remain steady, despite the micro-clusters that have popped up in certain pockets of the state,” Cuomo said. “Our strategy is to continue to identify these clusters if and when they pop up, get even more refined in our targeting and attack them as needed.”

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