BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Active COVID-19 cases in Broome County surpassed 500 Wednesday. To slow the spread of the virus, parts of the county will be subject to new restrictions under New York state guidance.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cluster action initiative sorts COVID-19 outbreaks into three colored zones: yellow, orange and red. Parts of Binghamton, Johnson City, Endicott and Endwell fall into the yellow zone, the least dire of the three.
Yellow zone measures require COVID-19 testing in schools, reduce the allowed gathering size from 50 people to 25, and limit tables at restaurants to parties of equal to or fewer than four.
Broome County Executive Jason Garnar said the rules will go into effect for 14 days starting Friday. They’re aimed at reducing population density, he said, but they won’t be effective if people don’t stay home.
“In coordination with this new cluster initiative, I am going to continue to ask people to stay home for these 14 days as well,” Garnar said.
Garnar called the measures “common sense,” but also said some would require extensive resources. Implementing surveillance testing in school districts throughout the zone is a large task, Garnar said. Many are already facing cuts to state aid and may not have the funds needed to operate widespread testing of students and staff.
“Whether it’s the local municipalities or the local school districts, everybody is stretched to the limit here,” Garnar said. “We have very few resources to put into another large-scale initiative, and this would be a very resource-intense initiative.”
According to Garnar, the county’s asking the state to provide staff and testing supplies to schools so they can meet the requirements.
The mandate applies only to schools with in-person instruction. It’s unclear if some students who are still taking classes online will have to be tested because they have siblings or close contacts who are attending classes in person. Garnar said the county has asked the state for further details and is waiting on more information.
The New York State Department of Health is expected to announce what percentage of students and staff school districts must test by Friday.
The county reported its 83rd COVID-related death Wednesday, a male in his 80s. More than 2,300 hundred people are under quarantine throughout the county.
The new rapid testing site on Binghamton’s West Side will continue at St. Patrick’s Church on Leroy Street into next week. Garnar said it’s the first week of testing appointments booked up within 24 hours, with 127 tests administered Tuesday.
Broome County residents experiencing symptoms of the virus can sign up for testing via the NYS Department of Health website or by calling 2-1-1.