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NYS sending in rapid tests to control COVID-19 clusters

Carlos Osorio / AP Photo
A lab technician dips a sample into a testing machine that delivers results within minutes.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he’s immediately taking steps to control several cluster outbreaks of COVID-19 in portions of New York state, including installing rapid testing machines at virus hot spots.

The overall rate of the infection rate for the coronavirus in New York was 1.5% Sunday. That is up after weeks of the average hovering at or below 1%. The governor says just 10 ZIP codes are responsible for that increase and in some of those areas, the rate of infection is as high as 30%.

Cuomo said he’s sending rapid testing machines to schools and local governments in the cluster areas. They include portions of Rockland and Orange counties in the lower Hudson Valley and portions of Brooklyn and Queens.

“Focus on the clusters,” Cuomo said. “We have 200 rapid testing machines that we are going to make immediately available.”

Cuomo said state health department officials will be made available to operate the machines. The devices can produce testing results in as soon as 15 minutes. The aim is to quickly identify those who are infected, so they can be isolated and treated for the illness, and to find out who they might have come into contact with, so those people can be quarantined.

Cuomo is also asking local governments to strictly enforce mandatory mask rules and social distancing in those areas.

Some of the ZIP codes coincide with areas that have large Orthodox Jewish populations and some of those communities have been cited in the past for holding large gatherings, like weddings, in violation of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.

Cuomo said he does not know if the outbreaks are coming from those communities specifically, but he says religion should not matter in this case.

“Whether you’re Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, it applies to everyone equally,” Cuomo said. “Public health is public health.”

Cuomo threatened to order shutdowns of schools and businesses in the ZIP codes where the infection rate is high, if there is not more compliance with the rules to quell the spread of the virus.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
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