New York introducing new rules to address COVID clusters

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On day 220 of the coronavirus pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo repeated what experts have warned since the outbreak began: As fall rolls in, instances of the virus are bound to increase.

Cuomo said that the state is doing well “on the numbers,” but that there’s a serious cluster issue owing to mass gatherings. Examples of clusters have appeared in Brooklyn, Queens, Binghamton, Orange County, and Rockland County.

The governor placed the responsibility for growing numbers on large groups gathered at bars, parties, concerts, factories, restaurants, college campuses, places of worship, and the White House. He said that fines would raise for sponsors of mass gatherings.

Cuomo says that mass gatherings cause clusters, which cause community spread. With that in mind, he announced a “Cluster Action Initiative” to crush clusters and stop the spread. The initiative represents a new model with new rules. After identifying a cluster by actual number of cases, there’s now going to be a three-step process:

  1. Take dramatic action within a red cluster zone
  2. Take action in the areas surrounding the cluster, in the orange warning zone to stop the spread
  3. Take precautionary measures in outlying communities, represented by a yellow precautionary zone

Cuomo said the trick is to keep clusters small through intense, targeted effort. Within the three zones of a cluster—red, orange, and yellow—the new rules for worship, businesses, restaurants, schools, and mass gatherings are as follows:

ActivityRedOrangeYellow
Worship25% capacity
10 people maximum
33% capacity
25 people maximum
50% capacity
GatheringsProhibited10 people maximum, indoor and outdoor25 people maximum, indoor and outdoor
BusinessesOnly essential businesses openClosing high-risk non-essential businesses (gyms, personal care, etc.)Open
DiningTakeout onlyOutdoor dining only, 4-person maximum per tableIndoor and outdoor dining, 4-person maximum per table
SchoolsClosed
Remote only
Closed
Remote only
Open
Mandatory weekly testing of students and teachers/staff for in-person settings. DOH will set percent by Friday

These new rules can go into effect as soon as Wednesday, but no later than Friday. They’ll be in effect for a minimum of 14 days, and the state government will monitor the results. Weekly testing for yellow zone schools will start next week. Any schools needing additional testing equipment should contact the Office of the Governor.

The governor also repeated that compliance requires enforcement from the local government, and that lack of enforcement has contributed to the problem. To that end, all local governments will be required to provide the state task force with personnel to enforce compliance. Cuomo said New York City will be required to supply 400 personnel to deal with hot spots there.

Still, the governor said compliance is ultimately up to individuals and organizations. “It’s not government’s job to catch you,” he said. “It’s the citizen’s obligation to do the right thing.”

Take a look at the slides from Cuomo’s presentation:

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