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New COVID Restrictions Likely for WNY Microclusters, Cuomo Says

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York will likely place new COVID-related restrictions on areas of Western New York, the Rochester area, and Onondaga County early next week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday, as those areas continue to experience relatively high rates of the virus.

Cuomo said Erie County, Monroe County, and Onondaga County have among the highest positivity rates in the state, and that he’d coordinate with local officials on new rules.

"Western New York is a problem," Cuomo said. “They are lower than states surrounding us, but relative to New York, they are the highest spots in New York.”

Erie County, he said, has a positivity rate of those tested for the virus of 3.1% at the moment, while Monroe County is at 2.6%. Both counties have a few of the state’s largest cities, with Buffalo in Erie County and Rochester in Monroe County.

It’s unclear what the cause of the spread has been in those areas, but Cuomo said he’ll tighten COVID-related rules over the weekend to slow the trajectory of the virus. That’s part of the state’s new plan to create new ‘zones’ for new rules, rather than restricting entire regions.

Other areas of the state that were previously in a bad spot related to COVID have shown signs of improvement in recent days, Cuomo said.

The restrictions surrounding a microcluster in the Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens will be lifted, he said. A zone with heavy coronavirus-related restrictions in Brooklyn will also shrink by 50%, according to Cuomo, and progress has also been made in the lower Hudson Valley.

Still, the statewide positivity rate for the virus has remained relatively high in recent days, with numbers compared to what was reported in the late spring, rather than at the lowest point of the virus in July and August.

As of Thursday, the latest data available, the positivity rate in New York was 1.91%, Cuomo said. That’s fueled, in part, by the focused strategy in the state’s microcluster zones, where testing is concentrated on the most affected communities.

Cuomo said part of the blame for the rise in the virus is due to a lack of enforcement by local law enforcement and health officials over restrictions that are already in place, like limits on mass gatherings and mask mandates.

Albany-based reporter Dan Clark is the host of New York Now, public television's weekly statewide news program  seen Sunday mornings at 9:30 on WNED PBS.