Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday that the city cannot yet ease up on restrictions in Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods considered to be COVID hot spots.
"When I say we are leveling off, and this is a conversation I have had with our health leadership, I am saying that guardedly," he said on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.”
The mayor did say some neighborhoods are still not moving in the right direction despite an overall plateauing of cases.
The state says 4.84% of all coronavirus tests in the state's so-called COVID red zones are coming back positive. That's more than three times the seven-day average in the city as a whole.
"When you composite all of it, we are a lot better off than we were a week ago. The point is, we have to consolidate those gains, this week, next week to get out of these restrictions," the mayor said.
Dr. Jessica Justman,an infectious disease specialist at Columbia University Medical Center, said the rates both locally and nationally should sound the alarm. New cases per day are rising in 44 states.
"Now, when there is a lot more testing of asymptomatics, my expectation is that the percent positive really should be much much lower than it was in the spring," Justman said. "So to see those percent positivity rates start to go up with that large denominator, that is extra concerning."
Health experts have long warned about the challenges the city and country would face as the temperatures cool and people spend more time indoors.
Justman says New Yorkers and all Americans should prepare for hot spots to continue to pop up. She says containment is key.
"Do this precision targeting of restrictions, we will hopefully see them rise up, plateau quickly and come back down," she said. ""That would be the pattern I would hope for, and I would expect a number of these throughout the winter."
Justman said one positive national trend is that the death rate from the coronavirus has fallen because hospital care in treating the virus across the country has improved, a note of optimism as the city and state try to stop an increase in coronavirus cases.