New York's COVID Cases Rise Nearly 70 Percent in 2 Weeks After Flattening Out for Months

Average daily new coronavirus cases in New York, the former epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., were on an upward trend in a recent two-week period, after flattening out for months from mid-June to late September, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

The three-day moving average of daily new cases in the state was 1,371 on October 5, a 68 percent increase from the figure reported two weeks ago, when it was at 814.71 on September 22, according to the latest report Tuesday by JHU.

In New York City, 4,005 cases were recorded in the past seven days since October 6, while 5,242 infections were reported in the rest of the state (excluding New York City) in the same 7-day period, according to the latest report Tuesday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new restrictions "to address COVID-19 hot spots that have cropped up" in Brooklyn, Queens, Broome, Orange and Rockland counties, the governor's office said in a statement Tuesday.

Many of the affected areas have large populations of Orthodox Jews.

"Orthodox Jewish gatherings often are very, very large and we've seen what one person can do in a group," Cuomo said during a Monday news briefing, referring to an Orthodox Jewish man believed to be a "super spreader" responsible for hundreds of infections.

"Mass gatherings are the super spreader events. We know there have been mass gatherings going on in concert with religious institutions in these communities for weeks... I'm talking about you're only supposed to have 50 outdoors, [but] they had 1,000... you don't see masks and you see clear violation of social-distancing," Cuomo said Monday.

The new restrictions are split across three categories (Red Zone, Orange Zone, Yellow Zone), each of which dictates different capacity limits for houses of worship, mass gatherings, businesses, dining venues and schools.

Cuomo said Tuesday: "A cluster is just that—it's a cluster of cases, a high density of cases, and it seeps and grows from that cluster almost in concentric circles.

"When you see the cluster, you have to stop it at that point. Our strategy is to crush the cluster and stop the spread," he said in the statement.

On Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted: "We've seen consistently high COVID-19 numbers in 9 zip codes across South Brooklyn, Far Rockaway and Central Queens.

"We're providing these areas with additional resources, but when presented with new information, we must act. We won't risk the progress we've made," the mayor added.

The mayor submitted a proposal Sunday to the state government to close non-essential businesses, including public and private schools, in these nine zip codes where virus rates have remained over three percent over the previous seven days. But the proposal was rejected by Cuomo on Monday.

Newsweek has contacted the governor's office, the mayor's office and the New York State Department of Health for comment.

Confirmed cases in New York have surpassed 466,900, as of Wednesday, according to JHU.

New York City has the 10th highest number of cases per capita in the country, with 2,956 cases per 100,000 people, according to the latest report Tuesday by the CDC.

New York state currently has the country's highest COVID-19 death toll, with 33,219 fatalities to date, according to JHU.

New York City has the country's highest death rate, reporting 284 deaths per 100,000 people, as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.

The three-day moving average of daily new cases in New York declined sharply from early April, when it peaked at 9,909 on April 7. The average count rose sharply from early March, according to data compiled by JHU.

The state flattened the curve of the outbreak from around mid-June. Average daily new cases hovered below about 800 through late September, according to JHU.

"There was an alignment in New York with the state government, the healthcare system and the media on what to do - namely, lock everything down," Mark Jarrett, chief quality officer at Northwell Health, New York's largest health system which serves nearly 11 million people across New York City, Long Island and Westchester County, told Reuters in August.

"The lockdown didn't please everyone but was really well accepted," Jarrett added.

Experts previously warned the state may see a jump in new infections in the fall following the reopening of schools.

Times Square New York City September 2020
A view of Times Square in New York City on September 30. New York state reported a nearly 70 percent rise in average daily new infections over a recent two-week period. Noam Galai/Getty Images

"The big challenge is schools reopening, recreating that density anew," which had been reduced by social distancing, Troy Tassier, a professor of economics at New York's Fordham University who specializes in epidemiology, told Reuters in August.

Cuomo noted in August: "Colleges across the country are seeing outbreaks. This is going to be a problem."

Last month, Cuomo announced all colleges in the state must report incidents of more than 100 cases. Schools are required to "return to remote learning with limited on-campus activity when that threshold is reached for a two-week period," the governor's office noted in a statement in late August.

Cuomo said: "We've seen troubling reports of students congregating on college campuses, so we are setting a threshold that says if colleges have 100 cases or if the number of cases equal 5 percent of their population or more, they must go to remote learning for two weeks, at which time we will reassess the situation.

"We should anticipate clusters and that's what we're seeing. Be prepared for it, get ahead of it," he said in the statement in August.

The wider picture

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 35.8 million people across the globe since it was first reported in Wuhan, China, including over 7.5 million in the U.S. More than a million have died following infection, while more than 24.9 million have reportedly recovered as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates a survey of U.S. adults concerned about catching COVID-19.

coronavirus americans scared statista

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases.

Spread of COVID-19 cases in U.S.