In a Monday morning conference call, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is placing parts of Erie County into his micro-cluster action initiative “yellow zone.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted the affected areas include Clarence, Lancaster, Elma, Aurora, Amherst, Cheektowaga, West Seneca, Orchard Park, Tonawanda, Buffalo, Lackawanna, Hamburg and Grand Island.
In a “yellow zone” or “precautionary zone”:
√ Houses of worship are limited to 50% capacity.
√ Mass gatherings are 25 people maximum, indoor or outdoor.
√ Businesses remain open.
√ Indoor and outdoor dining is restricted to four persons maximum per table. Bars and restaurants must close at midnight.
√ Schools are open, but with mandatory weekly testing of 20% of students and teachers/staff for in-person settings.
Cuomo said he came to this conclusion after speaking with Poloncarz and the Erie County Department of Health over the weekend.
Erie County was among the state leaders last week in total number of new coronavirus infections. On Friday, the Department of Health confirmed 385 new coronavirus cases. That was the highest daily case total among residents since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and exceeded the previous high total of 277 new cases set on May 4.
The daily positivity rate based on 7,995 diagnostic test results was 4.8%, with a seven-day rolling average of 4%. The total number of cases confirmed in Erie County since March 2020 was 14,770.
Western New York also was tops in percentage of new cases, at 4.3% Friday and 4.8% Saturday. Per New York state reporting, Erie County hit 5.8% Saturday (271 positives among 4,678 tested). The ECDOH stated the rate was above 6%.
And, later in the day, he wrote, “A significant portion of Erie County is now in a ‘Yellow’ Cluster Zone due to increasing COVID-19 cases. We have an opportunity to do better before businesses and schools are closed. We must do better. Please be vigilant: #WearAMask #WashYourHands #BeAGoodNeighbor”
“The micro-cluster approach works,” Cuomo said. “Micro-cluster approach is inarguable. Do more testing, more targeting, as soon as you see any increase, be more aggressive.
“There's nothing more you can do, but that's everything that you can do. Watch a small increase, attack a small increase. And it works. How do you know it works? Because the numbers show that it works.
“Broome County was at 8%; declared it a micro-cluster. Additional remediation. What is remediation? Enforcement, enforcement, enforcement; discipline, discipline, discipline; and restrictions. Broome has gone from 8% to 3.5%. Orange County has gone from 12% to 2%. Rockland County has gone from 9% to 3%. Those cases are interesting to me, because they are rural – more rural and suburban cases. Brooklyn, which is a truly urban area – as we all know – Brooklyn has made great progress; and we reduced the ‘red zone’ by 50% last week, based on the progress. The progress has continued. And now we're announcing for Brooklyn the ‘red zone’ will be all eliminated. And what is now the Brooklyn ‘red zone’ will go to an ‘orange zone.’ ”
He added, “People don't like the restrictions – I understand that – but it works. And as complicated as this is, is as simple as this is.”
The governor explained, “You have a house, five people live in the house. One person has the virus – any virus; flu virus, any virus. You tell that person, ‘Stay in your room. Don't come into the kitchen.’ You tell the other people in the house, ‘Don't go into the room; don't share utensils, don't spread the virus.’ You want to go say hello, open the door, wave hello, talk from the doorway; don't go into the bedroom.
“It then becomes a question of discipline and enforcement. The person comes out of the bedroom, walks down into the kitchen, makes themselves a cup of coffee, touches the coffee pot, touches cups, sits down at the table, (touches the) table cloth. Now the virus spreads. This is a virus – and it spreads, like a virus. It's a question of discipline and enforcement.
“ ‘Well, we have COVID-19, people are tired.’ Yeah I know people are tired. The virus isn't tired. And that's all that matters.
“So, the ‘red zones’ are our way of saying – and ‘orange’ and ‘yellow’ – our way of saying the virus is making headway. And we're going to increase restrictions, and we're going to increase enforcement.
“I have a continuing lament … local governments have to do enforcement. Even if they feel it's not politically popular, but they happen to be wrong. Because I'll tell you what's not politically popular: people dying. That’s what’s not politically popular. Better you do enforcement then people get sick and people die.
“So, the micro-cluster zones have done well. We've made progress.”
Cuomo has said the coronavirus is manageable when one person infects no more than one other person. Speaking to the media here, he offered this thought:
“The rate in New York, now New York we're different than other states because we do more testing and we're more aggressive in both our remediation efforts and were more aggressive in our goal-setting. Our goal-setting is much more aggressive and rigorous than other states – all by national organizations also. Like the (World Health Organization) says you want to stay below 5%. We're much more aggressive and, from my point of view, being more aggressive just allows you a buffer – but ideally you'd want to see no one sick; so I think you can't be aggressive enough.”
New Focus Zones
•Erie County – New ‘Yellow Precautionary Zone’ – Click Here for Map
Over the past 10 days, parts of Erie County have had seven-day average positivity rates above 2.5%, and cases per 100,000 and new daily hospital admissions have increased, meeting the metrics for a yellow zone designation.
•Monroe County – New ‘Yellow Precautionary Zone’ – Click Here for Map
Over the past ten days, parts of Monroe County have had 7-day average positivity rates above 3%, and cases per 100,000 and new daily hospital admissions have increased, meeting the metrics for a yellow zone designation.
•Onondaga County – New ‘Yellow Zone’ – Click Here for Map
Over the past ten days, parts of Onondaga County have had 7-day average positivity rates above 3%, and cases per 100,000 and new daily hospital admissions have increased, meeting the metrics for a yellow zone designation.
Erie County "yellow zone" map (Images courtesy of the Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo)