New York City will be last to reopen as COVID-19 cases still popping up in high infection areas: Cuomo

Food rescue operation for needy residents run by City Harvest in the Bronx borough of New York City
A nurse from Lincoln Hospital wearing a protective face mask picks up packages of free food during a food rescue operation run by City Harvest during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 22, 2020. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

With some New York City ZIP codes still having up to 40% COVID-19 infection rates, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that the five boroughs will be the last to open, as neighboring Long Island and the Hudson Valley got the green light for a restart this week.

With 73 deaths on Memorial Day and 200 new cases statewide – about where New York was on March 25 – Cuomo said better testing and tracing resources would be focused on those New York City ZIP codes that have seen such high infection rates for an ultimate reopening of the five boroughs.

Ten of these ZIP codes led the city in the number of new COVID-19 infections over the past week, according to the Governor’s office. Half of them are in the Bronx:

  • 10467, Norwood/Gun Hill/Allerton, 100 cases
  • 10469, Williamsbridge/East Bronx/Pelham Gardens/Baychester, 73 cases
  • 10468, Fordham Manor/Fordham Heights, 69 cases
  • 10458, Little Italy/Belmont/Fordham Manor, 69 cases
  • 10456, Morrisania, 64 cases

Three other ZIP codes with the highest number of new COVID-19 cases this past week include Queens’ Far Rockaway (11691, 95 cases), Corona (11368, 86 cases) and Elmhurst, which was once the epicenter of the city’s COVID-19 crisis (11373, 69 cases).

Two others were in Brooklyn: Flatbush (11226, 78 cases) and East Flatbush (11203, 66 cases). 

But even as city residents clamor for the much anticipated reopening, the New York Stock Exchange has welcomed employees back on the trading floor, but not without social distancing and masks, according to Cuomo. The governor rang the opening bell on the NYSE earlier Tuesday.

“It’s the one region that is not reopened yet, and we’re now going to focus on reopening New York City,” Cuomo said. “We have data, we have tests, we can focus on the new cases in New York City – where are those new infections still coming from – and we literally can now focus on those areas by ZIP code.”

With lower infection rates in frontline workers than in the general public, Cuomo told reporters the virus is infecting people largely within communities of color, with community spread in the home. Once the infection rate is brought further under control, the governor is confident the city can begin reopening.

Cuomo said the ZIP code-centric approach to reining in the virus has already begun, but will be increase this week.

“You can see that the infection rate is some of these zip codes is double the infection rate in the city. The infection rate in the city, general population is about 19%, almost 20%. In some of these communities the infection rate is 40%, literally double the citywide average,” Cuomo said. “When you look at these new COVID cases coming into the hospitals, they’re coming from these zip codes.”

While Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday morning that 1,500 tracers had been hired, Cuomo said the effort would be increased with the federal government recommending at least 30 tracers for every 100,000 people in a region.

But even when New York City does reopen, wearing masks will remain the protocol for daily living, Cuomo said. He reiterated previous remarks that essential workers have had lower infection rates because they have worn masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.