New York City officials announced a significant increase in the citywide daily rate of positive virus tests on Tuesday, which was due to an increase in nine zip code cases in Brooklyn and Queens – in some predominantly Orthodox Jewish communities.
At a news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a daily rate of 3.25 percent, the highest daily rate since June. The daily rate was 1.93 percent on Monday.
“This is a cause for real concern,” the mayor said.
This comes at a particularly important moment, as the city tries to fully open schools and introduce indoor meals this week.
In the past two weeks, nine zip code cases have involved 25 percent of the city’s virus cases, despite the fact that the population in those areas constitutes only 7 percent of the city’s population. According to Dave Chokshi, city health commissioner.
In recent weeks, many of the new cases – at least 1,600 – have been called by city officials as the “Ocean Parkway Cluster”, named after the boulevard running from below Prospect Park to the ocean.
The cluster was detected last month as the case rate rose in Borough Park, a predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, where wearing a mask has been a rare thing. In interviews last week, several Hasid men living in Borough Park said that many members of their community thought the neighborhood had a degree of herd immunity due to how hard it hit in March and April.
Dr. “There is still no evidence of herd immunity in any community,” Chokshi said on Tuesday.
City officials said they believed that wearing masks in and around Borough Park became more common in recent days following new efforts by public health officials to secure cooperation by community health leaders.
“I really feel like we had turned the tide,” Dr. Michelle Katz, who heads the city’s public hospital system, said of wearing masks.
The mayor said that under the new enforcement measures, no person in the city would wear masks. “That will start in a big way today,” he said.
In addition, non-republic schools and child care centers will be forced to close if they do not comply with safeguards.
The city’s positivity rate has major implications for the public school system. Under current guidelines, the class will be closed if the test positivity rate is more than 3 percent above the seven-day rolling average. Mr de Blasio said on Tuesday that he would not seek to change those guidelines to target specific areas in areas that had seen an increase.
The mayor said the current seven-day average was 1.38 percent, and schools in the city did not see an increase in cases with nine zip codes.
If the schools are forced to close, they could take weeks to reopen, according to city health officials.
“The goal is to be less than 3 percent in a way that is consistent,” Mr. de Blasio said.
But he cautioned that the city was not yet near that point.
The mayor said plans to introduce indoor food in the city on Wednesday would not be affected.
Early last week, city health officials warned residents of several areas in Brooklyn, including Gravesend, Borough Park, and Midwood, that if they don’t see a major effort to follow coronovirus safety measures, strict lockdown measures. Will be implemented.
Last week, the city’s health department threatened that gatherings of more than 10 people would be banned if reforms were not seen early. That restriction has not yet been implemented.