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Here’s how Governor Cuomo’s new COVID cluster rules work in hotspots

Governor Andrew Cuomo has initiated new rules for cluster zones or ‘hot spots’ for COVID-19 infection.

So far the rules will only apply to downstate zip codes that are seeing higher-than-Upstate increases in cases.


Cuomo says the plan was developed in consultation with national public health experts including Dr. Noam Ross of EcoHealth Alliance, Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota and former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

A cluster is just that – it’s a cluster of cases, a high density of cases, and it seeps and grows from that cluster almost in concentric circles. Drop a pebble into the pond, the pebble goes in, then there’s one ring, two rings, three rings, and the rings continue across the pond. When you see the cluster, you have to stop it at that point,” Governor Cuomo said.



The initiative is composed of three steps:

  1. Take dramatic action within the cluster.
  2. Take action in the area surrounding the cluster to stop the spread.
  3. Take precautionary action in the outlying communities.

The initiative will divide clusters and the areas around them into three categories with successively higher restrictions within each one:

Red Zone — Cluster Itself

  • Houses of Worship: 25 percent capacity, 10 people maximum
  • Mass Gatherings: Prohibited
  • Businesses: Only essential businesses open
  • Dining: Takeout only
  • Schools: Closed, remote only

Orange Zone — Warning Zone

  • Houses of Worship: 33 percent capacity, 25 people maximum
  • Mass Gatherings: 10 people maximum, indoor and outdoor
  • Businesses: Closing high-risk non-essential businesses, such as gyms and personal care
  • Dining: Outdoor dining only, 4 person maximum per table
  • Schools: Closed, remote only

Yellow Zone — Precautionary Zone

  • Houses of Worship: 50 percent capacity
  • Mass Gatherings: 25 people maximum, indoor and outdoor
  • Businesses: Open
  • Dining: Indoor and outdoor dining, 4 person maximum per table
  • Schools: Open with mandatory weekly testing of students and teachers/staff for in-person settings. The New York State Department of Health will establish a percentage of teachers and students/staff who need to be tested by Friday.

“Our strategy is to crush the cluster and stop the spread, and we’re announcing a special initiative to do just that. Step one, you take the most dramatic action within the cluster itself where you have the highest density of cases. Understanding that the people in that cluster interface with the surrounding communities, take additional action in the communities surrounding the cluster. Then as a precautionary measure, take action in the communities that are outlying that area,” Cuomo added.


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