Cuomo Suspends NYC Indoor Dining, Debuts New Cluster Zone Rules as Hospitalizations Soar

NBC News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday he is suspending indoor dining in New York City as of Monday, a result of sustained increases in the five boroughs’ hospitalization and COVID-19 positivity rates. The potential for harsher shutdowns looms.

Mitigating increases in the state’s hospitalization rate has become Cuomo’s top priority — and he recalibrated the state’s micro-cluster model as part of a revised overarching post-holiday plan he unveiled Friday. That plan includes new standards for red, orange and yellow cluster zones and adjusted focus metrics

If any region in the state is projected to hit 90 percent hospital capacity within 21 days, the governor will impose a red zone shutdown. That means nonessential businesses, schools and restaurant table service close in a given region for an indefinite period of time, a measure reminiscent of strict lockdowns from spring.

Going forward, areas will be deemed orange zones if they are at 85 percent hospital capacity and a positivity rate of at least 4 percent for 10 days or the Department of Health determines hospitalization rates to be unacceptably high.

One other adjustment from previous rules: gyms and salons will be permitted to continue operating in orange zones with increased testing and reduced capacity (25 percent; the current limit on those businesses within non-orange zones is 33 percent). Cuomo said he made the change because says capacity limits and additional regulation have dramatically reduce spread in those places.

As for yellow zones, those will be areas with positivity rates of 3 percent or higher for 10 days that also are in the top 10 percent for hospital admissions per capita over the past week and see week-over-week growth in daily admissions. Cuomo says his team plans to review the latest data this weekend and will announce any new cluster zones Monday. He’ll also reassess indoor dining outside the city.

The changes announced Friday are the core of Cuomo’s revised winter plan, which prioritizes hospital capacity and acutely focuses on positivity rates, density, risk level of economic activity and rate of transmission. It’s an interwoven strategy.

New York City has a lower hospitalization rate than 3/4 of the state’s regions and most major U.S. cities, but its density is a heightened risk factor. The new restrictions set to take effect Monday ensure that risk isn’t underestimated.

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