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New York City sees ‘very worrisome’ spike in coronavirus infection rate

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New York City is seeing a “very worrisome” sustained increase in Covid-19 infections across the five boroughs, Mayor Bill de Blasio and public health officials said Thursday.

The city’s positive test rate hit 1.92 percent based on a seven-day average, the highest number in weeks and the first time the metric has seen a “meaningful jump” since the city began tracking it in September, de Blasio said. The one-day rate was even higher, at 2.7 percent.

The city reported 532 new coronavirus cases — a number that has been hovering around the city’s 550 threshold for keeping the pandemic under control, which it breached earlier this week. While previous spikes were driven by outbreaks confined to certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, officials now say new cases are increasing across the city.

“We do see a slow and steady rise throughout many, many parts of the city,” said public health adviser Jay Varma.

The city plans to shut down its school system, which has reopened in fits and starts, if the positive test rate on a seven day average hits 3 percent. The mayor has called for shutting down indoor dining if it hits 2 percent, though the final decision would rest with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The growth is what worries me. And we cannot allow that number to keep growing. We’re really going to have to double down” de Blasio said. “This is a dangerous time, and we have to take it really, really seriously.”

Travel accounts for about 10 percent of the new cases — 7 percent domestic, and 3 percent international — while others have been traced to workplaces and indoor gatherings.

De Blasio repeated his plea that New Yorkers avoid traveling out of state to see family over the coming holiday season.

“People really should not travel for the holidays unless it’s absolutely necessary, because unfortunately just about everywhere else is doing worse at fighting the coronavirus,” he said. “If you go some place else, the chance of bringing it back with you is high.”

He also warned that the city will break up illicit Halloween parties this weekend.

Neighborhoods in southern Brooklyn remain under shutdown orders from the state, requiring nonessential businesses and schools to close and limiting houses of worship to ten people. Most of those restrictions have been lifted in Queens neighborhoods where they were also imposed, after rates there fell.

The cluster areas now account for some of the increase the city is seeing, but not all.

“Those clusters were a serious, serious problem and those restrictions were absolutely necessary, or else things would have gotten out of hand,” de Blasio said. “If we had not moved quickly, there well could have been a full-blown second wave.”

So far, there has not been a big spike in hospitalizations. Hospitals admitted 81 patients with symptoms in data reported Thursday, and 27 percent of those tested positive.

Varma pointed to European cities that have re-imposed lockdowns and warned that New York could follow if the situation continues to worsen.

“It’s important for us to take all those individual measures like avoiding gatherings, wearing masks, keeping our distance if we want to avoid that same outcome,” he said.

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