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Brooklyn, Queens Neighborhoods Approach Deadline To Lower COVID-19 Rates Or Face Restrictions

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A spike in COVID-19 infections in New York state has health officials taking action. Ten zip codes account for 25% of new cases.

In New York City, affected neighborhoods have been put on notice, CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Monday.

City health officials say positive cases in Williamsburg, Brooklyn are increasing faster than in other parts of the city, adding if infection rates don't decrease quickly, restrictions could start soon.


Like so many restaurants, Vinny's Lunchbox on Avenue U has been anticipating the start of indoor dining -- a dire lifeline that is set to begin on Wednesday.

"With this infection rate going up, it's not looking good," owner Alyssa Afflitto said.

The eatery is located in the Gravesend/Homecrest COVID cluster, which has a two-week 6.72% infection rate, the worst in the city.

Initially, health officials sounded the alarm about the rise in coronavirus cases in eight neighborhoods. The list has since grown to 12.

Officials say the following areas have concerning rates of positive results:

  • Gravesend/Homecrest (6.72% positivity rate)
  • Midwood (5.34%)
  • Kew Gardens (3.82%)
  • Edgemere/Far Rockaway (3.9%)
  • Borough Park (4.63%)
  • Bensonhurst/Mapleton (4.41%)
  • Gerritsen Beach/Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay (3.91%)
  • Flatlands/Midwood (3.85%)

All are communities in Queens and southern Brooklyn and many are home to large Orthodox Jewish populations.

"We have 200 rapid testing machines that we're going to make immediately available, as in today," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

One woman did not want to share her name with CBS2, but said she doesn't believe she's harming anyone by not wearing a mask.

"There's always a spotlight on us," she said. "Most of the people in this neighborhood have had the virus and that's why we feel that we can't spread it. There aren't any records of somebody whose had the virus getting it again."

When Layton told her there isn't any proof that you cannot get the virus again, the woman said, "I know. I know."

On average, the positive rate is 1.5% for all of New York City, its highest number since mid-July.

Cuomo said suburban Rockland and Orange counties are also experiencing increases. In fact, in certain zip codes within Rockland 30% of tests were positive on Sunday, CBS2's Jessica Layton reported.

Cuomo said local governments need to enforce mask compliance, while enforcing the rules against large gatherings for everyone in the community.

"Whether you're Jewish, Catholic, Muslim ... it applies to everyone equally. This is a public health concern across the board," Cuomo said.

Meanwhile, city health officials said if infection rates don't quickly decline, restrictions would start as early as Tuesday. That could include closing private schools and nonessential businesses.

"It's the people. They don't care. Now, they're like free. They want to party. It's the people. They're killing us," Brooklyn resident Harriet Amari said.

"I've always felt like my rights are not more important than your life," resident Joan Miles added.

This past weekend, sheriff's deputies shut down illegal gatherings and handed out masks in hot spots.

"People are tired of wearing masks. They're tired of socially distancing. Yeah, except the virus isn't tired," Cuomo said. "And the local governments need to do the compliance."

Back at Vinny's Lunchbox, Afflitto said, "We're almost eight months in. Everyone should be doing what we've been doing and it's going to affect our business dramatically."

Afflitto said she hopes residents realize how their actions have a devastating ripple effect.

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