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de Blasio talks about signs of improvement in COVID red zones

New York City neighborhoods that have experienced a surge in coronavirus cases are showing signs of improvement, Mayor de Blasio said Tuesday, but offered scant detail on where those improvements are taking place.

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“We are seeing some results,” de Blasio said at a City Hall press briefing. “We’ve got certainly a lot of work ahead, but we are seeing some leveling off beginning in the communities that have been most affected.”

The mayor’s hopeful prognosis comes four days into a controversial state-mandated “pause” that forced schools and businesses in several neighborhoods to temporarily close and houses of worship to limit the number of people allowed to attend religious services.

The pause order led to protests in Brooklyn where a photographer and reporter were attacked on two separate occasions.

Neighborhoods covered by the pause include Borough Park, Midwood and Far Rockaway. Those areas and other enclaves in Brooklyn and Queens have been designated “red zones” by the state, with yellow and orange color codes assigned to areas that are seeing similar, but less dramatic COVID upticks.

De Blasio said Tuesday that in the areas covered by the three-color codes, more than 100 summonses have been issued in recent days, adding up to more than $150,000 in fines.

The pause order will last for at least two weeks in red zones depending on whether the number of people testing positive continues to increase or starts to drop. This week will be critical to determining whether tighter enforcement of social distancing and mask-wearing requirements is having an effect and whether the pause will extend beyond 14 days, de Blasio noted.

“This week will be absolutely decisive,” he said. “By the end of this week, I think we’re going to have a clear sense of whether this is working and whether we’re in range to relax these restrictions after about two weeks.”

But the mayor didn’t offer much detail on which neighborhoods are seeing improvements and which ones are continuing to backslide. When asked for stats backing up his assertion that there’s been an improvement, de Blasio pointed to citywide numbers and the indicators, “as I’ve reviewed them with our health team.”

“We’re just seeing areas that were going up not going up anymore,” he said. “It’s not across the board. It’s not perfect. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re seeing a leveling off in a sense of not consistent increases.”

De Blasio also for the first time addressed implications that the pause order might have on early voting, which is set to start in the Big Apple on Oct. 24. The key question being: will voters in red zones be able to participate in early voting if the pause remains in effect?

“This is something we’re going to have to sort out,” he said. “That’s something that we will talk through with our health officials and with the Board of Elections to figure out the best way to approach it.”

Hizzoner stressed that voters can also cast their ballots through the mail and on Election Day, which is Nov. 3.

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