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City Officials Searching For Answers For High COVID-19 Positivity Rates In Manhattan's Washington Heights And Inwood

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- CBS2 is taking a closer look at Manhattan's COVID-19 hotbed. Washington Heights and Inwood have the highest positivity rates in the borough.

On Wednesday, CBS2's Andrea Grymes found out why​ and what's being done to help.

On a sunny but cold morning in Inwood, people like Glenys Vasquez waited on line for a COVID test.

"I've just been here for like 20 minutes," Vasquez said.

Vasquez just got home from the Dominican Republic and wanted to make sure she's negative, a precaution taken in an area with the highest COVID-19 positivity rate in Manhattan.

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The zip code 10034, which covers Inwood and Washington Heights, has a 10.28% positivity rate, the highest in the borough. The rest of Washington Heights also has positivity rates over 9%, according to the latest city numbers.

"I think it's because the people, they don't have responsibility ... especially the young. They want to be hanging out. They're together. They don't use masks," Vasquez said.

Others attribute high positivity to other factors. Many in the area live in close quarters and work essential jobs taking mass transit.

"Front-line jobs, you have deliveries, you have people that live on a day-to-day basis, you know. They don't have the social net so that they can stay at home and protect themselves," Community Board Chairperson Eleazar Bueno said.


Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said she has joined with community groups and fellow elected officials to get the word out.

"We've even done testing ourselves. My staff is trained to do testing. We have done every mask, every sanitizer to every single restaurant, bodega, etc.," Brewer said.

Brewer and others are calling for a faster -- and better coordinated -- vaccine distribution plan.

Coincidentally, Somos Community Care just began giving out the Moderna vaccine to members of its health care staff, who not only work in Washington Heights but across the city and Long Island.

"It's a hopeful day, but we don't want to stop. It is our job to do what is right and we are ready," Dr. Ramon Tallaj said.

Somos Community Care said it hopes to begin vaccinating eligible members of the public in the next week.

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