What to know
- Heavy fines will be imposed from Friday for violations of the new COVID restrictions that went into effect in New York the day before; mass collection infractions can cost up to $ 15,000 per day
- The new restrictions are based on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s color-coded cluster areas; red zones see stricter rules, which are in effect for a minimum of two weeks but may be in effect for longer
- They come when New York state sees its highest total COVID hospitalizations since July and New York̵
New York City will begin paying hefty fines on Friday as the city and state step up enforcement of new COVID restrictions amid month highs in total hospitalizations that were followed by rising infection rates at hotspots.
Penalties of up to $ 15,000 per day apply for violations of the mass collection rules; in the red cluster areas, those are completely banned. A maximum capacity of 25% or a maximum of 10 people applies to places of worship, while schools change completely remote activities and non-essential activities have been closed. Fines of up to $ 1,000 per day accompany social distancing and mask-wearing infractions, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has warned people who break the rules will face the consequences.
Areas of the orange and red cluster zone see varying restrictions, although schools can only stay in person, with mandatory weekly testing, within the latter. The new restrictions have been in effect for at least two weeks; they won’t be reversed until the infection rate trend returns to the numbers New York saw this summer.
The announcement of the cluster zones earlier this week sparked strong protests, mainly from heavily affected religious communities who criticized the renewed restrictions on places of worship. Governor Andrew Cuomo said the rules are not targeted, but are based on scientific data and data and reflect areas that he believes violated COVID precautions and allowed spikes in the first place.
New York’s restrictions, which apply to clusters in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Orange, Rockland and Broome counties, cover only about 6 percent of the state’s entire population, the governor said. The same 6% of the state’s population recently accounted for around a quarter of new daily COVID cases. Twenty hotspot postcodes have a 5.8% positivity rate, more than five times the state average and far above the New York City average in recent weeks.
Although the overall infection rate remains low, total COVID hospitalizations are reaching recent highs both statewide and in the city. Cuomo reported 754 total hospitalizations in New York on Thursday, the highest number since July 16. New York City’s daily average of COVID cases has nearly doubled in the past month.
Neighboring New Jersey struggled to contain increases in two counties as well: Ocean and Monmouth. Governor Phil Murphy reported 1,301 new cases in his briefing on Thursday, the highest daily number since late May. He also noted 652 hospitalizations, the highest total since August 5.
Asked if indoor meetings could see renewed restrictions in New Jersey, Murphy said Thursday that “every option remains on the table. Could we see some moves in indoor meetings? Maybe.” He noted that there was no evidence that indoor dining, which the state resumed after a delay last month, was contributing.
Protests erupted in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood on Tuesday and Wednesday night after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new restrictions on schools, businesses and places of worship in parts of the city and state. Report by Ray Villeda and Checkey Beckford of NBC New York.
The New Jersey health commissioner said Thursday that about 15 percent of new cases in that state could be related to religious services in September, which is when the holiest days in the Jewish calendar were celebrated. It pointed to 206 new cases in Lakewood, which saw positivity rates rise above the state average, made up mostly of white and non-Latino men between the ages of 19 and 49.
The biggest concerns in both states stem from increased concerns about the fall season in general. Cuomo warned that New York’s overall low infection rate may not be sustainable during the fall even without the cluster areas.
Fall means colder weather, which means more indoor activities. It means flu season. It means schools, if they can stay open safely. New Jersey has confirmed 16 public school-related outbreaks, with 58 total cases reported.
Daily percentage of positive tests by New York region
Governor Andrew Cuomo divides the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here is the latest tracking data by region. For the latest statewide county-level results, click here
The two states together have lost at least 41,700 people to the virus to date, nearly a fifth of the country’s death toll, according to NBC News estimates.
New York City alone has lost at least 21,000 people, including deaths likely caused by COVID but not definitively linked to it by the diagnosis. The CDC said it could somehow be attributed another 5,000 deaths.
Nationwide, the death toll has soared in the past two months, surpassing 213,000 according to the latest NBC News estimates with over 7.5 million confirmed cases. Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert, said Thursday he is not comfortable with the level of COVID cases as the United States enters the fall and winter.
The United States is reporting about 40,000 new coronavirus cases a day, which could worsen even as temperatures cool and people head indoors, Fauci said in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “I don’t feel comfortable. I’d like to see that level, very, very low, well below 10,000.”
Worldwide, COVID confirmed deaths have exceeded 1 million, although officials acknowledge the actual toll is likely significantly higher than reported.