The Governor held a briefing today to address an issue that he has been highlighting for a few days now. Around the state, the COVID-19 infection rate still remains around 1%. However, there are several clusters of cases located throughout the state, where the infection rate is significantly higher. For the most part, these clusters have been traced directly to mass gatherings that have occurred in those areas.
As a result, the Governor announced a new three-tier system today called The Cluster Action Initiative to contain and stop the spread of COVID-19 in hot spots around the state. The Cluster Action Initiative will create three zones—red, orange, and yellow—that are developed by mapping the location of known cases and creating a heat map based on distances. For an area that has been designated a hot spot (red zone), the Governor will impose significant new restrictions, including: mass gatherings of any size will be prohibited; there will be a 25% capacity, or a 10 people maximum, for houses of worship; only essential businesses will be allowed to remain open; dining will move to takeout only; and all schools will transition to remote learning.
For geographic zones within one mile of the red zone (orange zones), the restrictions will be as follows: mass gathering will be limited to 10 people maximum whether indoor or outdoor; there will be 33% capacity, or 25 people maximum, for hours of worship; high-risk businesses (gyms, personal care, etc.) will be closed; dining will be takeout or outdoor only, with a 4 person per table limit; and schools will operate remotely.
Geographic zones between one and two miles of red zones (yellow zones) will have the following restrictions: mass gatherings will be limited to 25 people maximum whether indoor or outdoor; 50% capacity for houses of worship; all businesses will remain open; dining will be allowed indoor or outdoor, with a 4 person per table limit; and schools will remain open—however, there will be mandatory weekly testing of students, teachers, and staff for in-person settings. The guidance on the mandatory testing will be released by the Department of Health by this Friday, October 9.
For localities that have a COVID-19 infection cluster, maps will be given to them by the state to delineate the red, orange, and yellow zones. The Governor stated that the localities with a red zone can begin to enforce these restrictions as soon as tomorrow but no later than Friday. The rules will remain in effect for 14 days once an area has been designated as a hot spot, but this could be extended depending on the infection numbers.
At this point, there are not exact details on where the hot spots are located, but generally, the Governor indicated that they are located in New York City, Rockland County, Orange County, and Broome County. We’ll send more information as it becomes available.
If you have additional questions about this update, please reach out to a member of our Government Affairs practice group for assistance: