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Gov. Cuomo Redraws COVID-19 Hot Zones As Infection Rates Improve

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered an easing of restrictions in some of the state's COVID mini-clusters, allowing businesses and schools in Queens and parts of Brooklyn to reopen.

As CBS2's political reporter Marcia Kramer reports, Halloween decorations are up and the owner of the Silver Spoon diner in Elmhurst, Queens is ready to welcome customers to come inside.

Gov. Cuomo eased restrictions, and that means owner Nicholas Rakitzis won't be limited to outdoor dining anymore.

"We are ready to go," he said. "We had dividers on all our booths."

After his assessment of the infection rates, Gov. Cuomo offered a new set of standards:

  • An area can exit a red zone is under 3% for 10 days
  • It can exit an orange zone if the rate is under 2% for 10 days
  • It can exit yellow if the rate is under 1.5% for 10 days

That means that residents of Far Rockaway, Kew Gardens and Forest Hills are now in the yellow zone, where businesses can open. Indoor and outdoor dining are allowed. Schools can also switch back to blended learning.

The red zones remain in Orange and Rockland counties.

"When we make progress, we adjust targets," Cuomo said.

The worry for New York City is whether other areas are seeing an uptick.

"Are you seeing any uptick in any other communities that could also be potential mini-clusters? And if so, what are you going to do about them?" Kramer asked Mayor Bill de Blasio.


"We are not seeing anything like what you are seeing in the current red and orange zones. We definitely see areas where we need to do a lot more testing and we will be sending more testing into affected communities in the city," de Blasio said.

The mayor apologized again to members of the Orthodox community for the way the lockdown was handled. Asked if he would also apologize, the governor had a one word answer.

"No," he said. "I am sorry they felt a disruption."

The governor also said he was worried about the mental and emotional toll the disease is taking on New Yorkers. He said he's worried that people could have post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, from the pandemic.

Watch Marcia Kramer's report -- 

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a vaccine plan Wednesday morning, prioritizing front-line workers and vulnerable New Yorkers in Phase 1 and expanding efforts to the general public in Phase 2.

"It's one thing to think about a vaccine or talk about a vaccine. It's a very different thing to actually reach millions and millions of people. That's going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of logistical work, a lot of communication and education. But that preparation is happening right now," de Blasio said.

But when a vaccine will become available is not known.

The mayor, along with the Department of Education, is also facing a lawsuit from a group of parents who want public schools to fully reopen with the option for students to stay remote.

Staten Island City Councilman Joe Borelli is joining those parents.

"Being in the classroom is really important for students," Borelli said.

"Would you be concerned about the health of the students, the teachers and the staff?" CBS2's Ali Bauman reports.

"I'm concerned about anyone's health, but studies are all indicating schools aren't the superspreaders we once feared," Borelli said.

Parents who spoke to CBS2 were split.

"Our kids are safe and they love being there," mother Whitney Taylor said.

"Like, you don't know if it's safe, but I know I can't really teach him," mother Carlene Lee said.

The Department of Education called the lawsuit "a petty distraction," saying their safety protocols are designed to keep the risk at bay and align with federal, state and local guidance.


Unfortunately, New York's neighbors are seeing a spike in cases. Health officials in New Jersey attribute it to social indoor gatherings, not schools or business, which Gov. Phil Murphy said makes the spread even harder to contain.

"These are mostly gatherings that are beyond our ability to effectively regulate or easily enforce compliance," Murphy said.

The Tri-State Area has added Arizona and Maryland to its travel advisory list, bringing the total to 43 states and territories.

MORE: Check The Complete Travel Advisory Quarantine List

Even though New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania all technically meet New York's threshold to be added to that list, Gov. Cuomo said Tuesday they are exempt.

However, he is urging residents not cross state lines unless the travel is essential.

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