New York City officials are urging continued vigilance in fighting the coronavirus, as the city has seen a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in several neighborhoods, including some with large Orthodox Jewish communities.
In an email Sunday evening to Orthodox media outlets, Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi wrote, “The neighborhoods that have presented higher proportions of positive COVID-19 tests — when compared to adjacent areas — include the Forest Hills and Far Rockaway sections of Queens as well as the Midwood, Williamsburg and Borough Park sections of Brooklyn. Moreover, we are receiving what we refer to as ‘signals,’ in smaller sections of these neighborhoods where there are anomalous spikes in cases.”
Chokshi’s letter also warns that “these communities’ past experience with COVID-19, does not guarantee immunity from future transmission. The science has not yet established that any section of New York City has reached herd immunity or even how long immunity lasts after someone has recovered from COVID-19.”
Orthodox neighborhoods in the New York City area were hit hard by COVID-19 in March and April, but the disease then seemed to have nearly disappeared, as the community experienced high rates of positive antibody tests and became a major source of donors to national COVID plasma campaigns. A source in Hatzalah told Hamodia that Hatzalah received virtually no COVID calls in New York City during the four-month period prior mid-August. Some community members believed that herd immunity had been reached.
But during the past two weeks, Orthodox communities in New York once again started seeing a spike in cases. During that period, according to a medical source in the community who spoke to Hamodia on Sunday, there have been approximately 10 COVID hospitalizations in the community, including serious cases and intubations. Mayor Bill de Blasio said some cases in Borough Park had been linked to a wedding that violated the 50-attendee limit. Chokshi held a conference call with Orthodox outlets last month to warn against complacency, and to encourage people to continue to wear masks, maintain social distancing, wash hands, avoid large gatherings, get tested, and communicate and cooperate with city Test & Trace officials about possible exposures.
In a letter to the community late last month, Hatzalah warned of a recent uptick in cases.
“While B”H many of the cases appear to be relatively minor, there have been an increase in cases with more severe symptoms as well as hospitalizations and ICU admissions,” the organization wrote. “If we aren’t extremely strict and careful with following the recommendations of the CDC, State and Local Governments, and other healthcare professionals, we can c’’v see a deadly resurgence.”
Overall, New York City has continued to see low infection numbers, along with the rest of the state. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the rate of total COVID test results in New York City that were positive was 0.7 percent each day, according to state figures. On Saturday, 0.85 percent of test results across the state were positive, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday, representing the thirtieth consecutive day that the statewide rate was below 1 percent.
According to city data, during the past four weeks, the two zip codes with the highest percentage of positive COVID tests are 11204 (3.28%) and 11219 (2.5%), the main Borough Park zip codes. They are followed by 10453 (encompassing the Bronx neighborhoods of Morris Heights, Mount Hope and University Heights), 11220 (Sunset Park), 10452 (the Bronx neighborhoods of Concourse and Highbridge); 11239 (East New York); 11235 (Brighton Beach/Manhattan Beach/Sheepshead Bay); 11432 (the Queens neighborhoods of Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates and Jamaica Hills); 10455 (Mott Haven in the Bronx); and 11691 (Far Rockaway and Edgemere in Queens) rounds out the top ten. Numbers 11 through 14 on the list are Bronx zip codes 10458, 10462, 10460 and 10468. Midwood’s 11230 is number 15.
Below is the full text of Chokshi’s letter to Orthodox media Sunday evening:
I am writing to share concerning COVID-19 news that I hope you will convey to your readers in your ongoing coverage.
In recent days, we have observed heightened rates of COVID-19 in many neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish populations. The neighborhoods that have presented higher proportions of positive COVID-19 tests—when compared to adjacent areas—include the Forest Hills and Far Rockaway sections of Queens as well as the Midwood, Williamsburg and Borough Park sections of Brooklyn.
Moreover, we are receiving what we refer to as “signals,” in smaller sections of these neighborhoods where there are anomalous spikes in cases.
Following up on our conference call, we continue to see transmission in New York City and it appears to be happening more in communities that encompass your coverage areas than in many other parts of the city. COVID-19 can be transmitted from an adult to a child and we are seeing transmission within households from adults to children in some of these communities.
The neighborhoods experiencing transmission were particularly hard hit in the worst weeks of the pandemic this past spring and we never want to return to those awful days.
We also must emphasize that these communities’ past experience with COVID-19, does not guarantee immunity from future transmission. The science has not yet established that any section of New York City has reached herd immunity or even how long immunity lasts after someone has recovered from COVID-19.
All New Yorkers, including children, must adhere to the Core 4, which includes washing hands, wearing face coverings (if older than two years of age), maintaining distance and staying home if ill. Everyone must also avoid large gatherings and safely isolate if exposed to someone who was found to have COVID-19. If safely isolating at home is difficult, the city can provide accommodations or additional resources. All New Yorkers should be getting tested. To find a testing site go to nyc.gov/covidtest or call 311.
We know everyone in these areas shares our deep concern for their families, friends and neighbors and we urge all New Yorkers to do their part to help us keep COVID-19 at bay.
Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, NYC Health Commissioner
Below are tables showing the increased numbers in the five neighborhoods. (Click on each image to enlarge.)
Below is an August 25th letter to the community from Chevra Hatzalah:
Updated Sunday, September 6, 2020 at 10:29 pm .