ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo provided an update into the state's progress on the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday from Albany.
Cuomo said New York State has a COVID-19 cluster problem, which he attributes to mass gatherings like houses of worship, colleges and outdoor gatherings such as weddings.
The governor said clusters are starting to form across the state. Specifically mentioning current clusters in parts of Binghamton, Orange, Rockland, Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau.
During his briefing, Cuomo announced the "Cluster Action Initiative," which are new protocols to tackle a high density of cases in one area.
Cuomo said a cluster will be identified by state officials based on case numbers in an area not zip codes or a census tract. He said the cluster zone will be about a one mile radius. The surrounding areas will be a warning zone and precautionary area.
There are three levels of cluster zones based on the infection rate in the area, red, orange and yellow.
RED - Houses of worship will be at 25 percent capacity or 10 people maximum. Mass gatherings will be prohibited. Only essential businesses are open. Schools will be closed. Dining will be takeout only.
ORANGE - Houses of worship are at 33 percent capacity or 25 people maximum. Mass gatherings are 10 people maximum. High risk non-essential businesses such as gyms or personal care will close. Only outdoor dining will be allowed with a four person maximum per table. Schools will be closed.
YELLOW - Houses of Worship are at 50 percent capacity. Mass gatherings are 25 people maximum, indoors and outdoors. All businesses are open. Indoor and outdoor dining are allowed with four people maximum per table. Schools are open with mandatory weekly testing of students and staff.
The reason the state has set up these cluster zones is to properly identify hotspots across the state and determine what precautions need to be taken to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in the hotspot. However, Cuomo did not give specific metrics about how the state will determine if an area is deemed a cluster. 2 On Your Side reached out the governor's press office for more information.
Governor Cuomo also announced that he has increased the fine for those who are violating mass gatherings to $15,000.
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown responded to the announcement during our 5:30 Town Hall broadcast.
"This is an effort by the governor to keep members of our state safe and healthy," Brown said. "It is a strong measure but in Buffalo what we have been doing is talking to people every single day, reminding them about the importance of wearing masks, physically distancing by at least six feet, washing hands frequently and to avoid all mass gatherings and were seeing pretty good compliance in the City of Buffalo."
You can watch the full interview with Mayor Byron Brown below: