COVID-19

COVID Update: Cuomo Set to Bar Large Religious Gatherings, Close Schools


October 5, 2020

THIS STORY UPDATED AS OF 6:00PM, MONDAY, OCTOBER 5

By Barrett Seaman—

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Faced with continuing coronavirus flare-ups in the 20 so-called “hot spot” zip codes and unhappy with the lack of enforcement by local governments, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the state will take over enforcement of restrictions in those areas. He is also meeting Tuesday with leaders of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn, Rockland and Orange Counties to extract agreement from them to follow the state’s guidelines and to shut down gatherings that do not abide by them.

Displaying photographs of large Jewish gatherings—one of them estimated to be in the range of a thousand people, Cuomo declared, “The religious community has to agree to the rules and that they are going to follow the rules.” He noted that as of Friday, Rockland County reported 1,072 active cases (confirmed within the last two weeks)—up from 272 cases as of September 16th. The hot spot in neighboring Orange County, centered around Monroe, had a 27.6% infection rate, with 48 people hospitalized on Friday.

Both the governor and the Orange County Executive, Steven Neuhaus, have indicated that the schools in the area will be closed as well.

Criticizing local authorities for what he deemed lax enforcement, Cuomo cited the state’s crackdown on bars and restaurants, which resulted in numerous license suspension and closures, as effective, whereas the enforcement of large religious gatherings has not been. He cited New York City’s deployment of 1,000 over a three-day period, producing only 26 actions as an example of inadequate enforcement. Said the governor. “We have to be more aggressive.”

“These clusters have to be attacked,” he said. “Picture the map as a map of dry grass and picture those hot spots as embers within the field of dry grass. The only course is to run to those embers and stamp them out immediately and dramatically.”

Absent the infection rates in the 20 hot spot zip codes, New York State’s infection rate was 1.01%.

 

None of Westchester County’s zip codes made the top 20 list, although Portchester had been on it going into the weekend. There are more active cases in the county–674–than in previous months, but County Executive George Latimer in his weekly COVID update on Monday noted that with 5,500 people tested, only 44, less than one percent, were positive, in concert with the rest of the state beyond the worrisome hotspots.

Latimer noted that the relative stability of COVID cases in the county comes two weeks after gyms and fitness centers reopened, after indoor dining recommenced and despite some mini-flare-ups, such as the Pleasantville church situation where two priests and a staffer tested positive, that produced no spread.

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