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Manhattan pols seek to close indoor dining, non-essential offices amid COVID-19 rise

A patient is wheeled into a hospital during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Manhattan on Dec. 4, 2020.
REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

With the second wave of COVID-19 yet to fully crest in New York, several Manhattan lawmakers renewed calls to have the entire city declared an “orange zone” that would necessitate a new round of business closures to help stem the surge.

City Council Members Mark Levine and Carlina Rivera, along with state Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, issued a statement Sunday seeking the designation — pointing to the upward trend in COVID-19 infections and related hospitalizations across the city.

Many parts of the city are already designated yellow or orange zones, such as the southern part of Staten Island, which has one of the highest COVID-19 positivity rates in the entire city. The yellow and orange zones either severely restrict or completely forbid indoor dining, gym operations and the opening of non-essential businesses.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has the authority through the state Health Department to declare COVID-19 zones based on the severity of cases. He has previously expressed hesitance toward declaring entire regions of the state, such as New York, as specific zones — arguing that a micro-cluster approached targeting specific communities within a region would be more effective at clamping down on infections.

The Manhattan lawmakers, in their Sunday statement, disagreed.

“Targeted neighborhood measures are not sufficient at this point, because community spread is now city-wide, and because New Yorkers are highly mobile, moving frequently between neighborhoods,” according to the statement. “The color status in any single neighborhood impacts the entire city, therefore at this point the best strategy is a consistent city-wide standard of Orange status, which restricts the most risky and likely points for contracting COVID-19, while allowing for some flexibility regarding lower-risk activities.”

On Saturday, Dec. 5, another 9,702 out of 205,832 tested for COVID-19 came back with positive results. Nearly a third of the new positive cases came from New York City, which had 3,127.

The number of patients hospitalized statewide rose by another 124, with 4,442 now admitted for COVID-19, according to Cuomo. The Manhattan lawmakers claimed that more than 1,300 people in New York City are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 — the highest total since June.

Another 56 New Yorkers died of COVID-19 on Dec. 5, including 15 in New York City. Ten of those deaths came in Queens and Staten Island, both of which had five.

In response to the lawmakers’ statement, Bill Neidhardt, press secretary for Mayor Bill de Blasio, stated, “The City is in constant and active discussions with the State on their zones and possible restrictions. Our top priority is the health and safety of all New Yorkers as we fight off a second wave.”

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