Rockland County is an example of the successful micro-cluster approach to fighting the virus, according to New York State officials.
"Watch a small increase, attack a small increase. And it works. How do you know it works? Because the numbers show that it works," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a Monday news briefing, citing the first two micro-clusters in the Hudson Valley as examples. "Orange County has gone from 12 percent to 2 percent. Rockland County has gone from 9 percent to 3 percent."
There are 992 active cases in Rockland as of Sunday, down from 1,800 active cases in October, and 25 people are hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, health officials reported. Restrictions in the micro-cluster, centered in the county's ultra-Orthodox communities, were eased Friday when the state downgraded Rockland's red zone to orange.
Orange zone rules limit non-essential gatherings to 10 people, allow the lesser of 25 people or 33 percent capacity in houses of worship, keep certain higher-risk businesses closed including gyms and personal care services, allow outdoor and take-out dining only, and allow schools to reopen after mass testing.
Officials at Agudath Israel, which sued New York State over the red-zone restrictions in Rockland County, issued a press release about the news.
"There is still work to be done, and this has been an incredibly challenging ordeal for all of us. But our communities are moving in the right direction, and government is working with us to ease restrictions when safe and practicable," they said. "We urge continued testing and mask wearing, both proven tools to identify and minimize spread. We need our shuls, schools and businesses open!"
Cuomo also announced three new micro-clusters, all in upstate New York. A new micro-cluster in Westchester County was announced Friday, in Port Chester.
All four new micro-clusters are designated yellow zones. Yellow-zone restrictions include a 25-person maximum capacity on mass gatherings, 4-person to a table maximum while dining and 20 percent weekly testing of in-person students and faculty in schools. Bars and restaurants located in Yellow Precautionary Zones must close at midnight.
"Yeah, I know people are tired," Cuomo said. "The virus isn't tired and that's all that matters. So, the red zones are our way of saying, and orange and yellow, is our way of saying the virus is making headway and we're going to increase restrictions and we're going to increase enforcement."
Rockland continues to lead the Hudson region in positivity rates.