New COVID-19 clusters found in South Brooklyn and Queens, where virus cases have tripled

September 23, 2020

Borough Park, Brooklyn; Photo via Wikimedia

Urgent action is required in four areas across Brooklyn and Queens where there has been a serious uptick of positive coronavirus cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday. The city’s Health Department identified a new cluster in Midwood, Borough Park, and Bensonhurst, which officials are calling the Ocean Parkway Cluster, after the avenue that connects the neighborhoods. Health officials have also found an increase in cases in Edgemere-Far Rockaway, Williamsburg, and Kew Gardens. The new cases account for 20 percent of all cases citywide as of September 19.

The Ocean Parkway Cluster has seen cases grow from 122 on August 1 to 381 on September 19, with a positive infection rate of about 4.7 percent. In Edgemere-Far Rockway, the number of confirmed positive cases has grown from seven to 24 during that same period, with a positive infection rate of 3.69 percent.

Cases in Williamsburg, which has a positive infection rate of about 2 percent, have increased from 15 cases on August 1 to 48 on September 19. And in Kew Gardens, cases have increased from 41 on August 1 to 89 cases on September 19, with a 2.4 percent infection rate.

For communities in Ocean Parkway, Far Rockaway, and Williamsburg, cases have tripled between August 1 and September 19. Cases have doubled in Kew Gardens during the same time frame.

Citywide, the infection rate has hovered around 1 to 2 percent for the past two months. During a press briefing on Wednesday, Mitchell Katz, the CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, said he was “so distressed” by the increase in cases, which have been predominantly found in the city’s Hasidic communities.

“We want to be sure that the message is getting out and reaching those who need to hear it,” Katz said on Wednesday. He said officials are calling physicians in Hasidic neighborhoods to “drive home messages” regarding face coverings, social distancing, and staying home when sick.

Last month, the city discovered a small cluster in Borough Park, with new cases linked to a large wedding that took place there. That neighborhood was hit hard by the virus early on in the pandemic; the city said 46.8 percent of residents tested positive for the coronavirus antibodies, the second-highest rate in the city.

And according to the New York Times, about 700 members of the city’s Hasidic community had died from the virus by late April. The city’s health department alert comes just days after Rosh Hashana and ahead of Yom Kippur, which usually calls for large gatherings for prayer.

The city will will redirect resources and ramp up enforcement and education efforts in the areas identified. Officials will also push community leaders to remind members that large indoor gatherings are dangerous and of the state law mandating face coverings be worn in public when unable to maintain distance from others.

“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 alert from the health department reads. “We are monitoring the situation for the need to take further steps in these areas.”


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