Covid infection rates will rise in New York and U.S. as state fights ‘microclusters,’ Cuomo says

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A woman wearing a protective face mask walks by posters on a closed store as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, U.S., October 14, 2020.

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

Coronavirus infection rates in New York will likely increase before the end of the year as a number of “fall stressors,” like reopened businesses and schools, will help spread the virus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned on Wednesday.

New York health officials have been responding to a number of coronavirus “cluster zones” that have reported higher positivity rates, or the total percent of tests returning positive, compared with other parts of the state. Each cluster triggers more restrictions on businesses and social activities depending on the seriousness of the virus’ spread, Cuomo said.

“I think the scale is going to go up throughout the fall,” Cuomo said. “I think you’re going to see more microclusters in New York. You’re going to see a higher rate in New York. You’re going to see a higher rate nationwide, and you’re going to see a higher rate globally.”

Infectious disease and public health experts, including White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, have warned that rising Covid-19 cases could complicate the nation’s response to the pandemic as it approaches the fall and winter seasons.

The U.S. is now reporting roughly 60,000 new Covid-19 cases daily, growing nearly 17% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University that uses a weekly average to smooth out fluctuations in daily reporting. Only two states — Hawaii and Virginia — reported declines greater than 5% as of Tuesday.

Contributing to the likely rise in Covid-19 cases during the colder months are a number of fall stressors, the Democrat governor said. Colleges and universities have reopened their campuses, the state’s schools have welcomed students back to the classroom and general feelings of so-called “Covid fatigue” have led to lower rates of compliance for recommended public health measures, he said.

“I heard Covid fatigue to mean: I’m tired of wearing the mask, I’m tired of doing the social distancing. I’m just tired, and I don’t want to do it anymore,” Cuomo said. “To that I said, ‘You don’t have the luxury of fatigue because the virus isn’t fatigued, and until the battle is over you can’t take a nap.'”

More people will also begin to congregate inside, which epidemiologists warn is less safe than meeting outside, and the forthcoming influenza season will further complicate the state’s response, he said.

“If you are good at finding it when it’s small and before it spreads, then you can control it,” Cuomo said. “I think you will see more microclusters, you might be seeing more serious restrictions inside micoclusters, but I don’t foresee, and I hope it doesn’t break from a microcluster to a region.”

Also posing a threat to New York: Travelers from other states across the U.S. are reporting growing outbreaks, Cuomo said. As of Tuesday, 43 states and territories now meet the criteria for New York’s travel advisory list, triggering a mandatory two-week quarantine for travelers arriving in the state from those areas.

However, neighboring New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania won’t be subject to the restrictions because restricting people traveling from those states “is not practically viable,” Cuomo said.

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