Though there’s some faint optimism as COVID-19 cases begin flattening out in New York City following a post-holiday surge, the virus continues to kill dozens of New Yorkers each day — particularly in Brooklyn and Queens.
Over a 7-day period between Jan. 15 and Jan. 20, approximately 352 New York City residents lost their lives to COVID-19, according to data from the Governor’s office. But 238 of those fatalities occurred in Brooklyn and Queens, both of which were hard hit during the first wave of the pandemic last spring.
The two boroughs accounted for 67.6% of all city fatalities from COVID-19 during the 7-day period.
The higher number of deaths illustrate the post-holiday surge’s painful cost in two of the boroughs hardest hit by the pandemic since the virus was first officially detected in New York City on March 2, 2020.
Even so, the levels of death and infection across New York City, in the throes of the second wave of COVID-19, are not at the horrific highs experienced during the first wave in March and April of last year.
While the second wave increase has been more gradual, the first wave overwhelmed hospitals and morgues alike; in April 2020, the city lost more than 300 people each day to the virus, with daily death tolls at one point exceeding 800.
During his press conference Friday, Cuomo pointed out that the Bronx was leading the city in COVID-19 positivity rates, with 7.44%, but Queens and Brooklyn were not far behind (Queens 6.42%, Brooklyn 6.03%).
The positivity rate, however, doesn’t tell the entire story about the spread of infection. While the Bronx saw 1,087 new COVID-19 cases on Jan. 20, the state Health Department reported that Queens and Brooklyn led the entire city in new COVID-19 cases that same day — with 1,581 new infections reported in Brooklyn, and 1,455 in Queens.
Additional data from the city and state Health Department, as analyzed by the online local news site THE CITY, found that the highest concentration of new positive cases in recent days appeared to be coming from southern Queens and southern Brooklyn.
The southern Brooklyn surge appears to be affecting many of the same neighborhoods hardest hit by an outbreak in October and November; the 11235 ZIP code of Brighton Beach/Manhattan Beach and Sheepshead Bay had the highest 7-day positivity rate in the five boroughs at 17%. The surrounding ZIP codes of 11204 (Bensonhurst), 11230 (Midwood), 11214 (Bath Beach/Gravesend), 11223 (Gravesend/Homecrest), 11229 (Gerritsen Beach/Brighton Beach/Sheepshead Bay) and 11224 (Brighton Beach/Coney Island/Sea Gate) checked in with 7-day positivity rates of between 12% and 13%.
Five southern Queens communities are also getting slammed with COVID-19 cases: 11419 (South Richmond Hill) had the highest 7-day positivity rate in the borough at 16%, followed by 11421 (Woodhaven) and Ozone Park (11417) at 15% each, and 11420 (South Ozone Park) and 11435 (Briarwood/Jamaica) checking in at 13% each.
Moreover, the Queens and Brooklyn clusters have higher rates in the Bronx, where cases appear to be more spread out across the borough. Seven Bronx ZIP codes — 10467 (Allerton), 10468 (Fordham), 10453 (Morris Heights), 10460 (Charlotte Gardens), 10462 (Parkchester), 10472 (Soundview) and 10474 (Hunts Point) each have 12% positivity, tied for the highest in the borough.
The New York Times reported Friday that 54 ZIP codes in New York City now have COVID-19 positivity rates above 10%, but another widespread shutdown similar to what was experienced last spring is unlikely as the hospital capacity rates have not yet met critical levels under state standards.
The city’s Health Department didn’t provide a definitive explanation for why Brooklyn and Queens saw so many deaths in the past week. Agency officials noted that the death rate per capita among the boroughs has been rather low, and similar; between Jan. 8 and Jan. 14, the death rate per 100,000 people was 0.8/100,000 in Queens, 0.6/100,000 in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island, and 0.4/100,000 in Manhattan.
The data, however, is preliminary and subject to change, according to the city Health Department.
In a perfunctory statement, the agency urged New Yorkers to continue taking precautions to guard themselves against infection even as cases begin to flatten and vaccines are administered. There’s also concern about another uptick resulting from the arrival of a more infectious strain of COVID-19 that emanated in the United Kingdom; a handful of COVID-19 cases with this variant have been detected in New York City.
“The situation remains serious and everyone must be vigilant about the precautions that keep them and their fellow New Yorkers safe,” according to the statement. “Mask up, keep distance, stay home, wash hands, get tested and save a life. This guidance is as urgent now as it has ever been. New Yorkers must adhere to the precautions to keep themselves and their city safe.”