Gov. Cuomo: COVID-19 orange zone for parts of Monroe County

New York State

NEW YORK CITY (WROC) — Portions of the area are moving from a COVID-19 yellow zone to an orange zone, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during a Monday briefing.

“In Monroe, parts of Rochester, Irondequoit, Brighton become an orange zone,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Ontario County, Victor is on track to become a yellow zone.”

A small portion of Gates is also included in the orange zone.

According to the governor’s office, orange zone restrictions include:

  • Non-essential gatherings shall be limited to 10 people
  • Houses of worship are subject to a capacity limit of the lesser of 33% of maximum occupancy or 25 people, whichever is fewer
  • Restaurants and taverns must cease serving patrons food or beverage inside on-premises but may provide outdoor service, and may be open for takeout or delivery, provided that any one seated group or party must not exceed four people
  • Schools must close for in-person instruction, except as otherwise provided in Executive Order.
  • Certain non-essential businesses, for which there is a higher risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus, shall reduce in-person workforce by 100%; such businesses include:
    • Gyms, fitness centers or classes
    • Hair salons and barbershops
    • All other personal care services including but not limited to spas, tattoo or piercing parlors, nail technicians and nail salons, cosmetologists, estheticians, the provision of laser hair removal and electrolysis

For businesses, and religious worship, the orange zone goes into effect Wednesday. For schools, the rules take effect Thursday. The governor also announced portions of Onondaga County would be going into an orange zone as well, following Erie County of which most was elevated to orange last week.

You can check which zone your address falls into with this online tool.

Watch the full briefing:

During a Monday afternoon briefing, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Duffy said businesses outside of the orange zone remain unaffected by the new restrictions, adding that there are no rules which would prohibit orange zone residents from traveling to other areas for certain businesses or services.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza released a joint statement Monday afternoon in regards to the orange zone designation advocating for schools to reopen:

Due to increasing spread of COVID-19, parts of Monroe County have been designated as an orange cluster zone by New York State. Unfortunately, this designation will bring new restrictions to our economy including the closure of high-risk, non-essential businesses such as personal care salons, barber shops and gyms and reduce in-person gatherings to no more than 10 people. In addition, school buildings located within the orange zone will have to close in person instruction until additional testing can be completed.

We want to be clear: we believe our schools should remain open as long as there is no evidence of spread in schools. The testing done in school buildings last week was proof that spread within the schools is not an issue, and that our schools are the safest place for our children during these uncertain times  We will continue to advocate on behalf of our local school districts, and will work with them to continue to meet the needs of their students.

We are working with our government partners, school leaders and the business community to meet the needs of those affected by the orange cluster zone designation, and we are rapidly implementing a plan to provide increased COVID-19 testing in the affected zip codes.

Moving our community out of the yellow and orange cluster zones will take a community-wide effort. We know we can do this. Please continue to wear masks in public, wash your hands frequently, maintain a safe six-foot physical distance from others and limit your in-person gatherings. We all need to work together so we can safely reopen our economy and make sure our children are able to be in school.”

According to Irondequoit Supervisor Dave Seeley, the impacted area in the town is in the 14609 and 14621 zip codes. He added that the East Irondequoit Central School District will be impacted, as well as 14621 which is mostly comprised of the City of Rochester. Seeley said a “good portion” of businesses along East Ridge Road would be impacted too.

Brighton Central School District Superintendent Kevin McGowan posted an update on the district website Monday, saying learning would transition to a fully remote model beginning Monday.

West Irondequoit Central School District officials said WICSD was not impacted by the orange zone designation.

RCSD officials said the orange zone designation has little impact as they have been doing remote-only instruction since the school year began in September.

The governor said the state was reevaluating school restrictions, specifically for grades K-8 where the positivity rate, and transmission of the virus, remains very low. He said that junior high schools and high schools are a different pattern of transmission, but added that states in COVID-19 color zones can test out of the closure.

“Schools may reopen if they follow new guidelines that require mass testing in schools before they reopen followed by vigilant symptom and exposure screening conducted daily,” according to the New York State Department of Health.

“Brooklyn went to a red zone and Queens went to orange or red zone, but schools closed in those zones and they closed for four days,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Cleaned the schools, test the students, any negative student can return, positive student can’t return, and then 25% of the student population is tested once a week. And on that basis, the school reopens.”

The governor announced the following data from Sunday:

  • 191,489 tests
  • 4.48% positivity rate in micro-cluster hotspots
  • 2.73% positivity rate outside of micro-cluster hotspots
  • 3.08% positivity rate overall statewide
  • 33 new COVID-19 deaths in New York state
  • 2,724 hospitalizations
  • 545 in ICU
  • 249 intubated

“Today is day 268,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Little bit of a reality check today, if we can, because these are dangerous times that we’re in. The COVID rate, number of deaths number of hospitalizations. Everything we watch on TV everyday is all a function of our actions. There is no predetermined result here it is a result of our actions.”

The governor described the current situation as a “toxic cocktail of dynamics.”

“The cases are already at an increase and we are coming into the high social season,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Social activity goes way up in this season. That is a bad combination and it is always the combination of events that creates the major issues. This is a toxic cocktail of dynamics and facts.

“First, we are already in a bad period,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Before you get to Thanksgiving, we are already in a bad period. Over the last three weeks the number of hospitalizations has gone from 1,200 to 2,700 that is a 277% increase”

The governor warned what could happen if the troubling trend continues.

“By the current rate of increase — that’s before we go into 37 days of the highest socialization period of the year — if nothing else effects it, you go up to 6,000 hospitalizations if you don’t get it down,” Gov. Cuomo said. “But you’re going into the period of high socialization. You put that rate of increase together with an additional increase with the high level of social activity, that is a dangerous situation and that is exactly where we are going.”

The governor told New Yorkers to remember the struggle the state had early in the pandemic, to reinforce good habits to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We’re only at 3%; only Vermont, Maine, and Hawaii are lower than us,” Gov. Cuomo said. “But that can change in an instant and remember how we got here. It took a lot of effort and a lot of pain to get to this point. How quickly can we forget what we just went through several months ago? We went to 3%, we got down to 3% because we went through the New York Pause Plan — which had never been done before, required tremendous energy, effort, loss and pain.

“We were at 50% infection rate and we brought it down from 50% to 1% through a tremendous unprecedented effort,” Gov. Cuomo said. “How do you forget all the pain that we went through? We have to remember that because if we’re not careful we could go back there: 800 people died on one day. The emergency rooms and hospitals were like battle zones. We ran out of cemetery space and in New York City there were burying people on Hart island. How do we not remember that and how doesn’t that frighten us? It frightens me — I remember it like it was yesterday.”

MORE | COVID-19 positivity rate plateaus, even as Monroe County keeps breaking virus records

With cases increasing locally, statewide, and across the nation, officials say it’s important to be safe during the holidays to prevent the situation from worsening.

“This is not a normal Thanksgiving, despite the commercialization,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This is not a normal Thanksgiving, this is a special Thanksgiving, this is better than a normal Thanksgiving because it’s more powerful and it’s more meaningful and it’s not just about the commercialization and the trappings. Lets think about what Thanksgiving really means, and really should mean, when we say we give thanks — because this is a year when we really should be thankful.

“This has been a horrific year where we have seen the worst in a generation,” Gov. Cuomo said. “And we’ve also seen the best in a generation, and let’s think of Thanksgiving as a time to really give thanks to the people who really did phenomenal things this year: Those doctors, nurses, essential workers. This about all the people who left their homes everyday so that we could stay at home.

“Why don’t we really honor that this Thanksgiving and say yes we’re going to be alone physically, but we are spiritually together,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Celebrating in a way that is even deeper than just the proximate location of sitting next to someone.”

New York state COVID-19 rules restrict private gatherings of more than 10 people. Officials say people should try to change their daily routines as they can to slow the spread, and to save the hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Upstate New York Sheriffs have mostly said they will not enforce the rules, something the governor called a “dangerous precedent.”

MORE | Thanksgiving gathering limits: Where area sheriffs stand on the issue

“You have sheriffs Upstate who have said ‘I’m not going to enforce the law,'” Gov. Cuomo said. “Now how a law enforcement officer says ‘I choose not to enforce that law,’ I believe that law enforcement officer violates his or her constitutional duty. You don’t have the right to pick laws to enforce. That’s not a law enforcement officer, that’s a dictator. You can’t pick and choose and if that’s the way you run your law enforcement agency, I don’t consider it a law enforcement agency — so god bless you but don’t ask me for help and I think it’s a dangerous precedent.”

Check back with News 8 WROC as we continue to update this developing story.

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