Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that portions of Monroe County have been designated an “Orange Zone,” bringing with it additional restrictions in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19.
“In Monroe, parts of Rochester, Irondequoit, Brighton become an orange zone,” Cuomo said in a media briefing. “Ontario County, Victor is on track to become a yellow zone.”
The map released later Monday also shows the Monroe County town of Gates within the Orange Zone. Much of Monroe County was already in a “Yellow Zone.”
The "Orange Zone" will go into effect on Wednesday for businesses and Thursday for schools.
The new Monroe County Orange Zone is effective Wednesday 11/25. For schools it is Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) so they can remain open on Wednesday and could opt to re-open as soon as Monday 11/30. Below is the Orange Zone map approved by @HealthNYGov: pic.twitter.com/ulXOsO61Ou— Vincent Esposito (@VinnieEsposito) November 23, 2020
The state’s microcluster strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19 designates zones in three colors which correlate with an area’s virus severity level – or positivity rate. The restrictions in place for microcluster zones vary by color – yellow being the lowest level, orange the middle level, and red being the highest level of infection in a microcluster.
Microclusters are tackled on a zip code level, not a county level.
The state’s target metric for entering an orange zone warning area for Rochester is a 7-day rolling average positivity rate above 3 percent for 10 days and 10 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a 7-day average.
An “Orange Zone” designation would require schools in the zone to close and return to remote learning, or – using the state’s test-out option – the schools close for four days of deep cleaning and could then remain open for in-person learning if all students and staff undergo COVID-19 testing and then 25 percent of students and staff are randomly tested weekly.
Businesses such as gyms, fitness centers and personal care services would be required to close.
In an Orange Zone, no indoor dining is allowed. Restaurants, bars, and other food services would be allowed to provide outdoor dining with a maximum of four people per table, takeout and delivery services.
Hours of worship would be allowed to remain open at 33 percent capacity, with a maximum of 25 people, whichever is less.
Nonessential indoor or outdoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people or less.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza released a statement which noted the additional restrictions and said the county would continue to advocate on behalf of local school districts to help schools remain open.
“We want to be clear: we believe our schools should remain open as long as there is no evidence of spread in schools. The testing done in school buildings last week was proof that spread within the schools is not an issue, and that our schools are the safest place for our children during these uncertain times We will continue to advocate on behalf of our local school districts, and will work with them to continue to meet the needs of their students,” the statement said.
“We are working with our government partners, school leaders and the business community to meet the needs of those affected by the orange cluster zone designation, and we are rapidly implementing a plan to provide increased COVID-19 testing in the affected zip codes.
“Moving our community out of the yellow and orange cluster zones will take a community-wide effort. We know we can do this. Please continue to wear masks in public, wash your hands frequently, maintain a safe six-foot physical distance from others and limit your in-person gatherings. We all need to work together so we can safely reopen our economy and make sure our children are able to be in school,” the statement said.
Gov. Cuomo described the state’s current COVID-19 situation as a “toxic cocktail of dynamics.” He noted that the number of hospitalizations has increased from 1,200 three weeks ago to 2,700.
“The cases are already at an increase and we are coming into the high social season,” Cuomo said. “Social activity goes way up in this season. That is a bad combination and it is always the combination of events that creates the major issues. This is a toxic cocktail of dynamics and facts.”
He urged New Yorkers to reinforce good habits to prevent the spread of the virus, reminding New Yorkers of the struggle the state had early in the pandemic.
“It took a lot of effort and a lot of pain to get to this point. How quickly can we forget what we just went through several months ago? We went to 3%, we got down to 3% because we went through the New York Pause Plan — which had never been done before, required tremendous energy, effort, loss and pain,” he said.
“We have to remember that because if we’re not careful we could go back there: 800 people died on one day. The emergency rooms and hospitals were like battle zones. We ran out of cemetery space and in New York City they were burying people on Hart island. How do we not remember that and how doesn’t that frighten us?,” he said. “It frightens me — I remember it like it was yesterday.”