ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday unveiled a new statewide system of metrics for dealing with COVID-19 micro-clusters.
After 14 days of data monitoring, the Governor outlined modifications to some current focus zones (NYC boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, and Orange and Rockland Counties), established three new ones in areas where there are recent upticks in cases (Broome, Steuben, and Chemung Counties), and set criteria for areas to exit a focus zone.
The governor said New York’s micro-cluster strategy detects small outbreaks and takes action to eliminate them.
“Cluster zone” focus areas are designated based on geographic case prevalence and restrictions are implemented accordingly based on the severity of spread. Buffer zones with fewer restrictions are implemented in the areas outside the most impacted areas to help prevent further spread. After 14 days, data will be reviewed to determine whether a focus area has successfully reduced viral spread to the level where restrictions can be eased.
Changes to cluster zones and new cluster zones take effect Thursday for impacted businesses and houses of worship, and Monday for impacted schools.
“We have what we believe is the most sophisticated COVID detection and elimination system of any state because we’ve spent time, we’ve invested and because New Yorkers are invested. What’s the best you can do? Detect the smallest outbreak as soon as it happens,” Governor Cuomo said. “Trace it back to where it starts, find a small outbreak or cluster, and jump on it. Quick action to contain it and eliminate it. That is the best you can do in this situation. You see an ember land in dry grass, ring the alarm, everybody run, stamp out the ember. The embers are what we call micro-clusters, and we can identify them from the testing data, from the hospitalization data, and mapping software.”
Identifying and Implementing Focus Zone
Daily data monitoring enables the State to identify areas that are experiencing a concerning increase in COVID spread. Once an area meets certain metrics – detailed below – that demonstrate substantial COVID spread, it may be designated a focus zone: a Red “Micro-Cluster Zone” (with accompanying Orange and/or Yellow buffer zones) or an Orange Warning Zone (with potential for accompanying Yellow Buffer Zone) or solely a Yellow Precautionary Zone. In densely populated urban areas, two buffer zones – an Orange Buffer Zone and a Yellow Buffer Zone may be required.
- Red Zone — Micro-Cluster: A “Red Zone” focus area is put in place to contain spread from a specific, defined geographic area.
- Orange Zone — Warning/Buffer: An Orange Zone area either is put in place primarily in densely populated urban areas as a tight buffer zone around a Red Zone micro-cluster (“Orange Buffer Zone”) area OR is implemented independently as a focus area based on the below metrics (“Orange Warning Zone”). The purpose of an Orange Buffer Zone is to 1) restrict activity to prevent further spread from Red Zone area; 2) provide a defined geographic area where metrics can be monitored daily to ensure COVID is not spreading beyond the Red Zone.
- Yellow Zone — Precautionary/Buffer: A “Yellow Zone” area either is put in place as a broader buffer area to ensure COVID outbreak is not spreading into the broader community (“Yellow Buffer Zone”) OR is implemented independently based on the below metrics (“Yellow Precautionary Zone”). The purpose of a Yellow Buffer Zone is to 1) restrict some activity to help prevent further spread from Red and/or Orange Warning Zone area; 2) provide a larger defined geographic area where metrics can be monitored daily to ensure COVID is not spreading beyond the Red Zone or Orange Warning Zone.
Different metrics would be applied to different Geographic Areas (Tier, 1, 2, 3 or 4), based on size and population. Chautauqua County has been placed in the Tier 3 Geographic Area, and its target metrics for entering the three different zones are shown in the provided chart below:
ADDITIONAL FACTORS FOR ENTERING ALL ZONES : Geographic areas has minimum of 5 new cases per day on 7-day average for geographic areas (i.e. ZIP code) with 10,000 or more residents, minimum of 3 new cases on 7-day average per day for areas with less than 10,000 residents AND The increase in positive cases or positivity reflect community spread and cannot be mostly explained by a cluster in a single institution (e.g. nursing home, factory, college, etc.) or household transmission AND The State Department of Health (DOH), in consultation with the local department of health, finds that based on the above listed metrics, and other epidemiological factors, such as an upward trend in total and daily hospital admissions from residents of this geographic area, that a zone designation is appropriate.
Metrics to Exit a Focus Zone
After 14 days from being placed in a focus zone, the State DOH, in coordination with the local health department, and in consultation with global health experts, will determine whether data sufficiently demonstrate that the area has successfully reduced viral spread to a level able to be contained given testing, contact tracing and other health system metrics. Based on the below metrics and expert advisement, the State DOH will decide whether the Focus Zone will be extended, modified (redrawn geographic boundaries based on case prevalence and positivity data), or ended. For Orange and Yellow Zones that are put in place solely as “buffer zones” to monitor case spread beyond a designated focus zone, these will be evaluated based on positivity data, cases per capita, and daily hospital admissions over the entire 14 day period to ensure there are no signs of broader spread from the focus area that prompted the zone creation. If after 14 days there has been no notable increase in positivity, new cases, or new hospital admissions from the buffer zone, the buffer zone will – based on other epidemiological factors – become eligible to qualify for a new zone designation, or ending a zone designation, if appropriate.
Chautauqua County, along with all other Tier 2, 3, and 4 Geographic Areas, would have to meet the following criteria in order to be removed from a zone.
ADDITIONAL FACTORS FOR ALL ZONE DESIGNATION DECISIONS: The State Department of Health (DOH), in consultation with the local department of health, may find that based on the above listed metrics, epidemiological considerations and/or other relevant factors, or other circumstances that a new zone designation is appropriate, or further data is required before a new zone designation can occur. Additional considerations include: Trends in the daily hospital admissions from the geographic area ; A finding that new cases are tied to a specific congregate facility, or defined cluster; Increased compliance and enforcement actions taken by local government
Community cooperation to reduce viral spread.
Gov. Cuomo also said the state’s COVID-19 infection rate, including red cluster zones, was 1.62% on Tuesday, the highest rate since June 4th.
Western New York’s infection rate was 2.0%.