New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wears a protective face mask as he approaches during a daily briefing following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Manhattan in New York City, New York, the United States, on July 13, 2020 Word comes.
Mike Segar | Reuters
New York has seen its worst coronavirus outbreak after the holidays and will begin lifting restrictions on much of the state, but more contagious strains of the virus that have recently surfaced could stifle that progress, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday.
Triggered by dinner with family and friends, the vacation spike appears to have peaked on January 4 in New York when the positivity rate, or the percentage of Covid tests that came back positive, hit around 8% across the state. That number has since dropped to roughly 5.6%, Cuomo said.
“I think at this point it’s safe to say that the vacation rush was expected, the vacation rush actually happened, but the vacation rush is over,” Cuomo said during a press conference in Albany.
The Democratic governor said the state will lift restrictions on gatherings and some non-essential business in most of the state – except in parts of the greater New York City area, including Washington Heights, the Bronx and Queens, and the greater Newburgh area in the hinterland.
These areas are still being viewed as “yellow zones” as part of New York’s micro-cluster strategy to target economic restrictions on specific areas where the virus is more prevalent. New York will lift restrictions on any remaining orange and yellow zones, removing tighter restrictions on indoor dining, collecting sizes, and businesses like gyms, barbershops, and hair salons.
Existing Zones in New York State
Source: New York State
As part of the state’s reopening strategy, New York restaurants are only allowed to dine al fresco or take out and delivery. Cuomo said he plans to meet with Mayor Bill de Blasio and health officials to discuss how to reopen indoor dining in the city and that he will provide more details later this week.
However, concerns remain that new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus, first identified in the UK, South Africa and Brazil, could question and threaten the state’s ability to treat an influx of Covid-19 patients.
“The new strains are a real problem and the Covid threat is not over yet,” said Cuomo.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appreciates the variant found in the UK, known as B.1.1.7, could become the dominant strain of the virus by March. So far, according to the latest data, New York has identified 22 Covid-19 cases with the mutated strain compiled by the CDC.
However, the federal agency warns that the number is based on sampling and is not the total number of B.1.1.7 cases that may be floating around.
Cuomo said increasing the number of available hospital beds was not the primary concern of the state but rather the lack of medical staff to treat a wave of new patients if they contracted the virus themselves.
“Yeah, it’s scary, and all I can tell you is we’ll see it and adjust,” said Cuomo. “If it changes, we will change.”