What to Know
- NYC has issued at least $172,000 in fines to people and institutions for violating the new COVID restrictions that went into effect last week; they'll remain in effect for at least 14 days minimum
- Varying levels of restrictions were reimposed in certain cluster communities where positivity rates have soared as of late; the harshest restrictions apply to just 2.8% of the state's population
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo says that same 2.8% of the population is accounting for about a fifth of the state's daily COVID cases; total hospitalizations have also doubled since early last month
Fines for violators of New York's new restrictions on mass gatherings have amounted to at least $172,000 in three days, the city's sheriff's office said Monday -- and that doesn't include enforcement actions by other local agencies.
The fines come amid a new COVID crackdown targeting clusters that have contributed to a doubling of hospitalizations statewide in just a month. Statewide, 878 people were hospitalized as of Monday, the highest total since July 1.
New York City sheriffs deputies cited five religious institutions in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn for violating the city health code by holding a gathering of more than 10 people. Each violation carries a $15,000 fine.
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Law enforcement personnel have delivered 60 summonses since the crackdown started Friday, a day after the new restrictions in New York's color-coded cluster zones were implemented, city officials said.
The harshest restrictions apply to red cluster areas, which are the highest-risk spots, under Gov. Andrew Cuomo's color mapping scheme. Those red areas affect just 2.8 percent of the state's population, but that same percentage of the population has accounted for nearly a fifth of new statewide cases over the last week and has a positivity rate more than five times the statewide average.
In red cluster areas, mass gatherings are banned entirely. Twenty-five percent capacity or a max of 10 people caps apply to houses of worship, while schools are all-remote and nonessential businesses have been shut down. Fines of up to $1,000 a day accompany social distancing and mask-wearing infractions.
According to the sheriff office's Monday update, 19 of the 60 summonses it issued between Friday and Sunday nights were in red cluster areas. Seven were in orange areas, where capacity caps on gatherings and houses of worship have been reinstated to a lesser degree. Schools are also remote, but nonessential businesses can remain open with strict COVID protocols in place. Nine summonses were issued in yellow zones, which are precautionary areas.
Enforcement continued outside of the cluster zones as well. Deputies made four arrests and issued 13 criminal court appearance tickets at a rave in Queens early Sunday that was outside of the borough's cluster zone. Four health code violation summonses were issued in that case, while 21 were issued for an illegal gathering Sunday in Long Island City, which is also outside the cluster zone.
According to Sheriff Fucito, social media posts tipped deputies to the after-hours party at Cunningham Park. At least 100 people were found at the party, in addition to a DJ, private security and hookah attendants, he said.
The new restrictions are in place for at least two weeks; they won't be lifted until the infection rate trend reverts to the numbers New York has seen this summer.
While some have complained -- and religious communities protesting the gathering restrictions have been most vocal -- that they are unfairly targeted by the new restrictions, Cuomo insists the reinstated rules are based on science. He says they apply to areas that, in his view, flouted COVID protocol that allowed the clusters to form -- and spread -- in the first place.
He wants to prevent further spread.
"We need the ability to focus on these small clusters now. Because if you don't catch a cluster, then it becomes a contagion," Cuomo said in an interivew on "TODAY" Monday. "We have to get smarter as a country. We have to get smarter as states. We're dealing with a virus. We have to use the science and get more sophisticated. And that's where we are in New York."
"We're closing down areas that are about one or two square miles, right? These are tiny areas. But we have that kind of data," he added. "And if you can target that way and close down small areas, then it's not inevitable that the spread gets so large that you would have to close down an entire city or a state."
The governor has launched an aggressive, targeted testing strategy focused on those red zone areas, along with 20 hotspot ZIP codes that have seen positivity rates soar in recent weeks. While the overall infection rate remains low, total COVID hospitalizations are hitting recent highs both statewide and in the city.
Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region
Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here