By Barrett Seaman—
Challenges to New York State’s heretofore admirable record of holding the spread of the coronavirus at bay continue, as the infection rates in 20 zip codes have risen to concerning levels. The zip codes, most of which are within New York City but also include Rockland and Orange Counties–and one in Westchester, have an average infection rate of 5.2%. The rate for the rest of the state, according to the state department of health, is 1.01%.
The Rockland and Orange “hot” zip codes, as well as many in Brooklyn and Queens, are also communities with large Hasidic populations for whom large public gatherings are a tradition during both the High Holy Days just past and Succoth (Sukkot), a week of family-oriented festivities that began Friday and runs for another week.
Westchester is home to only one of the troubled zip codes, which is in Portchester, but it is home overall to 85 new infections over the past three days, continuing a pattern of increase that began in the third week of September.
In keeping with his aggressive stance on controlling the virus, Governor Cuomo on Friday threatened to start fining local governments that are failing to enforce compliance with pandemic protocols—mask wearing, social distancing and limiting large gatherings. The Commissioner of Health has sent an order to governments where hot spots have appeared, establishing a framework for reporting their enforcement activities and setting specific consequences for failure to enforce those protocols. Fines could be as high as $10,000-a-day.