ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County’s COVID-19 yellow zone took a step Tuesday in preventing the potential upgrade to an orange zone, according to an update from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
The governor’s office reported Tuesday that Monroe County’s micro-cluster positivity rate was 3.68% Monday. That marks the first time in the last eight days with a micro-cluster positivity rate of less than 4%.
According to the New York state guidelines, microclusters are reevaluated 14 days after an initial determination. Monroe County’s yellow cluster was declared last Monday and brought about new rules and restrictions for schools, dining, religious worship, gatherings, and more.
While Tuesday’s update was a step in the right direction, the trend would have to continue to prevent the upgrade to an orange zone. According to the governor’s office, the seven-day rolling average positivity rate for Monroe County’s yellow zone is currently 5.13%, as of Tuesday afternoon. That’s slightly higher than the entire Monroe County seven-day rolling average of 4.63%, as of Tuesday.
MORE | Bello, Dr. Mendoza on COVID-19 yellow zone in Monroe County: ‘Wake up call for the community’
While a zone update isn’t expected until at least Monday, based on the guidelines, the positivity rate has consistently surpassed the 4% criteria. According to the New York State Department of Health, the Monroe County micro-cluster positivity rates for the past week were as follows:
- November 9 — 4.76%
- November 10 — 6.21%
- November 11 — 5.69%
- November 12 — 5.90%
- November 13 — 5.09%
- November 14 — 4.68%
- November 15 — 4.77%
- November 16 — 3.68%
To qualify for orange zone designation, Monroe County would have to meet the following benchmarks:
- Geographic area has 7-day rolling average positivity above 4% for 10 days AND
- Geographic area has 12 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on 7-day average
According to the governor’s office, orange zone restrictions would include:
- Closing high-risk non-essential businesses (gyms, personal care, etc).
- Schools move to remote-only instruction model
- Outdoor dining only, four people maximum per table
- 33% capacity for religious worship capacity, 25 people maximum
Local and state health officials say the mandated increase in testing for schools, spurred by the yellow zone designation, could play a role in reducing the area’s positivity rate.
“We are hoping to have kids and staff participate because that is the way we can get off the yellow list, by increasing our negative numbers,” said Kathleen Graupman, Superintendent of Schools for Monroe County, in a Zoom briefing last week.
“If the math and mention of fractions gives you anxiety, think of it this way,” said Webster Central School Superintendent Carmen Gumina in a letter to district students, staff and parents last week. “Currently, the majority of people being tested have symptoms or have been contact traced. When we test people without symptoms (like students and staff), the positivity rate will go back down and help us return to a green zone.”
COVID-19 testing in schools got off to a good start in Webster Monday. Of the 768 tests for students and staff, all results came back negative.
“Our positivity rate most likely is going to be driven down relatively fast if you think about it, because you have 19 districts, all just as safe as Webster is, and you’re going to get all these negative tests,” Gumina told News 8 Monday.
MORE | 768 Webster students and staff test negative for COVID-19 on first day of testing, zero positives
Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said last week that testing in schools is important for lowering the hotspot positivity rate, but he did say he supported parents who chose to opt out of testing for their children.
“I believe parents have the right to consent or not for testing,” Dr. Mendoza said. “I believe testing is safe and informative and it’s my hope that parents will want to have their children tested as I do. We all want to go back to normal.”
Monday, Monroe County Department of Public Health officials reported 315 new cases, the largest single-day increase for the county since the pandemic began.
There are currently 206 people in the Finger Lakes region hospitalized with the coronavirus, including 40 in an ICU unit, as of Tuesday afternoon. The 206 figure is the highest regional hospitalization rate the county has reported since the pandemic began.
“The number of cases across the country and in New York are only continuing to climb. Despite our success in managing the spread, New York is not immune to this national surge of COVID,” Gov. Cuomo said in a Tuesday press release. “Our micro-cluster strategy and testing capacity will help us through this new season, but ensuring we don’t go back to where we were in the spring is going to depend on our behavior. We all have a part to play – wear a mask, stay socially distant, avoid gatherings large and small, and wash your hands religiously. Our actions today determine our rate of positive cases tomorrow – it’s that simple. We can manage this phase the same way we did before: by holding each other to account and staying New York Tough.”
Tuesday’s statewide data update is as follows:
- 3.18% overall statewide positivity rate
- 4.89% positivity rate in hotspot micro-clusters
- 2.82% positivity rate outside of hotspot micro-clusters
- 29 new COVID-19 deaths Monday
- 2,124 hospitalizations (+156 from 24 hours prior)
- 408 in ICU
- 176 intubated
Each region’s percentage of positive test results reported over the last three days is as follows:
|Central New York||4.6%||3.9%||4.5%|
|Rochester & Finger Lakes||4.3%||4.3%||3.7%|
|New York City||2.2%||2.3%||2.9%|
|Western New York||5.6%||5.2%||6.5%|
Metrics to Exit a Focus Zone, according to NYS DOH:
“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.”
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.