Spotlight: NYS's block-by-block approach to counter COVID-19 with precision, efficiency

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, October 18, 2020
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by Xinhua writer Xia Lin

NEW YORK, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- New York will target individual blocks rather than entire neighborhoods as the state tries to fight the coronavirus in fall and winter, said Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday.

"You draw a very tight focus, bring it down within that targeted area and you don't disrupt anyone else in the meantime," said Cuomo, adding that the micro-cluster strategy is predicated on three principles: refined detection, specific and calibrated mitigation, and focused enforcement.

Using New York State's approach to track cases by address with the help of nation-leading levels of testing, the state will identify outbreaks and implement mitigation measures tailored to the precise areas where outbreaks occur, according to a press release issued by the state government.

The state will implement rules and restrictions directly targeted to areas with the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases, known as "Red Zones," and put in place less severe restrictions in surrounding communities, known as "Orange" and "Yellow Zones" that serve as a buffer to ensure the virus does not spread beyond the central focus area. Enhanced focused testing and enforcement will follow.


This approach will allow businesses to reopen once the clusters on their block are controlled, said Cuomo, adding that with contact tracing, the state will be able to identify exactly where the cases are coming from, and which businesses or places are not contributing to the spread.

Once a block with a high infection rate is designated, an increase in testing would take place with stricter enforcement, said the governor, adding that "If there's a cluster it means there wasn't compliance."

"One of the lessons we learned in New York is to look ahead and stay ahead. It's not checkers; we're playing chess with this virus. In the fall you're going to see an increased viral transmission rate -- that's just a fact," said Cuomo.

"Until now, we have been targeting all our actions either on a statewide level or a regional level. That worked fine and frankly was our only option because we didn't have any more sophistication than that," he said. "We now have more sophistication because we've been at it for seven months."

So rather than looking at COVID-19 data on the state level, regional level, county level or even neighborhood level, New York State is now going to analyze it on the block by block level, added the governor.


The micro-cluster strategy is not just to calibrate the state or the region, but to calibrate just those specific geographic areas, according to the press release.

It requires more testing, more targeted testing, and then you have to be responsive to the situations in that specific locality with mitigation measures. It has the advantage of causing less disruption, it added.

This strategy is based on the governor's Cluster Action Initiative, which was developed in consultation with national public health experts and announced on Oct. 6, to address COVID-19 hot spots that have cropped up in Brooklyn, Queens, and Broome, Orange and Rockland Counties.

"No other state has tried such a granular approach to rising cases," The New York Times on Friday quoted public health experts as saying. "New York State's plan cuts through city neighborhoods, ZIP codes and, in some cases, even streets."

State and city officials hope this approach will prevent the need for any new citywide lockdowns, which would further devastate the local economy, the paper added.

The state's positivity rate in coronavirus "Red Zones" dropped slightly to 4.34 percent on Friday, while the state's overall infection rate remains low, at 1.1 percent, with 1,784 new cases.

The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University reported 33,347 coronavirus deaths in the state as of Saturday afternoon, the worst in the United States. Enditem

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