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Cuomo outlines new microcluster strategy to tackle COVID-19 hot spots that arise in fall

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Mon, Oct 19th 2020 08:05 am

Strategy targets source of COVID-19 outbreaks using address-level data

Strategy based on cluster action initiative used to address recent hot spots

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday outlined New York's new "microcluster" strategy to tackle COVID-19 hot spots that may come with the fall and winter weather. The microcluster strategy is predicated on three principles: refined detection, specific and calibrated mitigation, and focused enforcement.

Using the state's approach to track cases by address with the help of nation-leading levels of testing, New York will identify outbreaks and implement mitigation measures tailored to the precise areas where outbreaks occur. It will implement rules and restrictions directly targeted to areas with the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases, known as red zones, and put in place less-severe restrictions in surrounding communities, known as orange and yellow zones, that serve as a buffer to ensure the virus does not spread beyond the central focus area. Enhanced focused testing and enforcement will follow.

"One of the lessons we learned in New York is to look ahead and stay ahead. It's not checkers; we're playing chess with this virus. In the fall you're going to see an increased viral transmission rate – that's just a fact," Cuomo said. "Until now, we have been targeting all our actions either on a statewide level or a regional level. That worked fine and frankly was our only option, because we didn't have any more sophistication than that.

Cuomo continued, "We now have more sophistication because we've been at it for seven months. So rather than looking at COVID-19 data on the state level, regional level, county level or even neighborhood level, we are now going to analyze it on the block-by-block level. The microcluster strategy is not just to calibrate the state or the region, but to calibrate just those specific geographic areas. Target it and target your strategy down to that level of activity. It requires more testing, more targeted testing, and then you have to be responsive to the situations in that specific locality with mitigation measures. It has the advantage of causing less disruption."

This strategy is based on the governor's cluster action initiative, which he announced Oct. 6, to address COVID-19 hot spots that have cropped up in Brooklyn and Queens, and Broome, Orange and Rockland counties. That plan was developed in consultation with national public health experts including Dr. Noam Ross of EcoHealth Alliance, Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota and former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

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