Gov. Cuomo orders NYC schools in COVID hot spots to close

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that about 100 public schools in New York City would close Tuesday as the state takes over the enforcement of coronavirus restrictions in the city's hot spots due to the alarming rise in cases within nine zip codes.

Most of the neighborhoods targeted by the restrictions are home to part of the city’s large Orthodox Jewish community, where many religious schools resumed in-person instruction in early September.

Speaking during a news briefing on the pandemic, Cuomo said he would be meeting with religious school leaders in the areas where cases have spiked to discuss likely closures. There are approximately 200 private schools within the hot spots. 

A day earlier,  Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he had asked the state for permission to shut down all nonessential businesses and schools in nine ZIP codes beginning Wednesday, October 7 in order to get a handle on the rising number of coronavirus cases in Brooklyn and Queens where the virus was spreading more quickly.  

"We're continuing to work with the governor on that plan," de Blasio said at a Monday afternoon news conference.

A decision had not been made on closing non-essential businesses Cuomo said but de Blasio says his administration plans to move forward with the closures on Wednesday.

Roman Catholic officials pushed back against the shutdown plan Monday, saying that rather than close all schools in the neighborhoods, the city and state should target only those that have seen a spike in infections.

The seven Catholic schools that would be affected have also been in school since the start of September, and have not seen a virus flare-up, church officials said.

“Should our schools be ordered closed by the state absent any significant COVID-19 outbreaks because of inferior protocols at non-Catholic schools, it would be a profound injustice to our families who have placed their trust in us to keep their children safe and whose faith has been richly rewarded to date,” officials with the New York State Catholic Conference said in a statement.

"If the religious leaders don't agree to follow these rules, we will close the schools," said Cuomo. 

NYC business owners say they won't survive another shutdown

Indoor dining, which just resumed a few days ago, could also be suspended. Outdoor restaurant dining and gyms could also shut down in the affected neighborhoods. 

Houses of worship would be allowed to remain open with existing restrictions in place under the new plan, but Cuomo suggested that he would be willing to shut down temples and churches, too, if they aren't following the rules.

“If you do not agree to follow the rules, then we will close the institutions down. I am prepared to do that," Cuomo said.

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As many as 500,000 people will be affected by the restrictions.

The closures are an attempt to prevent the virus from further spreading into the city and becoming a "second wave," like the one that killed more than 24,000 New Yorkers in the spring.

The impacted ZIP codes are:

  • 11691 - Edgemere and Far Rockaway
  • 11219 - Borough Park
  • 11223 - Gravesend and Homecrest
  • 11230 - Midwood
  • 11204 - Bensonhurst and Mapleton
  • 11210 - Flatlands and Midwood
  • 11229 - Gerritsen Beach, Homecrest, and Sheepshead Bay
  • 11415 - Kew Gardens
  • 11367 - Kew Gardens Hills and Pomonok

The restrictions would remain in place for either 14 days or 28 days, depending on how long the areas remained under 3% positivity for coronavirus. 

De Blasio also said that another 11 ZIP codes were being closely monitored on a "watch list" as their number of coronavirus cases rises.

Nearly 1,100 people have tested positive in Brooklyn in just the last four days, according to state figures.

With the Associated Press.