ALBANY — New York is seeing small but potent clusters of COVID-19 activity that have driven the positive test rate above 20 percent in a few downstate ZIP codes.
The statewide positive test rate has been holding at around 1 percent for weeks, bumping higher or lower at times and hitting 1.6 percent on Sunday. Statewide, the infection rate remains very low, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters in a briefing Monday, but a handful of the state’s 1,769 ZIP codes on Sunday accounted for a disproportionately high number of the positives.
The top 10 ZIP codes contain about 2.9 percent of the state’s population and about 25 percent of the newly confirmed infections, he said. Three of the ZIP codes are in Rockland County, one is nearby in Orange County, and four are in Brooklyn. The highest rate Sunday was in Rockland County’s 10977 ZIP code — 30 percent positive.
Also Monday, Cuomo:
- Announced he is extending the moratorium on residential evictions and foreclosures to Jan. 1. He previously extended the moratorium on commercial evictions and foreclosures to Oct. 20.
- Said the state will notify travelers arriving from most foreign countries — all but 31 places with low levels of COVID activity — that they must quarantine upon arrival in New York.
- Said local governments should reopen homeless shelters that they closed, in some cases due to concerns about COVID transmission; the state will provide guidance on doing so safely.
The hyper-local detail on COVID infections by ZIP code is a result of the testing system New York state has developed to combat the pandemic, and of the huge number of tests being administered each day. Health investigators can break down the results to a few square miles and focus resources there to tamp down the outbreak.
“The key to these clusters is to jump on them quickly, attack them from all sides, get the testing so you can do contact tracing and you can isolate,” Cuomo said.
To that end, the state will send up to 200 rapid testing machines to the ZIP codes with high positive rates, Cuomo said. These devices produce results in 15 minutes, providing a real-time picture of what’s happening on the ground there.
Only one of the top-10 ZIP codes for COVID positive tests is outside the New York City area. That ZIP is in Broome County — 10 percent positive on Sunday.
Cuomo said the origins of the uptick in the Southern Tier are known: a pub in Broome County, a nursing home in Steuben County and a church gathering in Chemung County.
He did not say what’s causing the hot spots in Brooklyn or in Rockland and Orange counties.