Sept. 22, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Several New York City neighborhoods, including two in Queens, are seeing an alarming uptick in positive coronavirus cases that city officials say requires urgent action.
The Health Department is investigating a large increase in COVID-19 cases in Kew Gardens and Far Rockaway in Queens and Williamsburg, Borough Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst in Brooklyn, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.
The neighborhoods’ combined clusters account for 20 percent of all COVID-19 cases citywide as of Sept. 19, de Blasio said.
City officials warned that they must control the spread immediately to prevent the clusters from spreading into other neighborhoods.
“At this point in time, these increases could potentially evolve into more widespread community transmission and spread to other neighborhoods unless action is taken,” the NYC Department of Health tweeted Tuesday night.
Coronavirus cases increased rapidly in the neighborhoods from Aug. 1 through Sept. 19, according to the department.
De Blasio said the city will increase its on-the-ground education and enforcement efforts to address the growing number of cases.
“We have a lot to do because we’re seeing a serious uptick in multiple neighborhoods simultaneously and it’s something we have to address with a very aggressive public health effort right away,” he said at a morning press briefing.
Kew Gardens has a coronavirus positivity rate of 2.24 percent and saw 476 new cases of COVID-19 from Aug. 1 through Sept. 19, according to the data.
Meanwhile, Far Rockaway’s rate hit 3.69 percent and saw 133 new cases over the same period.
The citywide positivity rate is at just 0.75 percent.
De Blasio called the neighborhoods of Borough Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst the “Ocean Parkway cluster” and said health officials are particularly concerned about the area, where a large Hasidic Jewish community lives.
The positivity rate of the Ocean Parkway area hit 4.71 percent, as 1,660 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed, according to the Health Department.
Williamsburg’s COVID-19 positivity rate, meanwhile, was the lowest of the concern areas at 2 percent. It saw 145 new cases from Aug. 1 through Sept. 19.
Large weddings and religious gatherings in Brooklyn’s Hasidic communities have triggered past COVID-19 increases. However, de Blasio didn’t say what was causing the most recent clusters on Wednesday, but warned against large indoor gatherings.
He also said the city shuttered two yeshivas in recent days for coronavirus challenges. One large yeshiva was shut down in Far Rockaway.
De Blasio promised that the city has the means needed to squash the clusters, but it will need cooperation from residents in each neighborhood.
“Truly, I want to be clear this is something that can be addressed,” the mayor said. “We have the tools and measures, we need a lot of cooperation from all the neighbors involved.”
The city is engaging local leaders, religious leaders and physicians to relay the four messages of hand washing, mask-wearing, social distancing and staying home if sick in each neighborhood.
The city also will do more robocalls, place ads in community papers and even deploy sound trucks to enforce the four measures. Health officials will also give out masks and hand sanitizer in each cluster area.