NYC churches upset at COVID hot zone capacity limits

Churches in several areas designated as “red zones” in New York City were left empty and quiet on Sunday as officials continue the fight against coronavirus

Across New York, officials are reporting just 5 deaths and a statewide positivity rate of just under 1 percent. However, inside of New York City’s multiple red zones, positivity rates are nearly 6 percent, and Governor Andrew Cuomo is hoping that enhanced testing will allow health officials to control specific clusters.

Many were left angry over their spiritual practices being interrupted by the second shutdown, despite churches saying they had taken extra steps to prevent transmission of the virus, including blocking off areas for social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing and various sanitizing protocols.

“We did it right, we haven’t had one problem,” said Monsignor David Cassato of St. Athanasius Church. “There were actually people at the door, crying.”

“To close all the houses of worship because they think there’s an outbreak and some of the houses are worship are violating the rules, I think it was a terrible message to send,” said Joe Esposito, a former NYPD Chief and OEM Commissioner. “Go after the ones that are committing the offenses.”

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The fight to reopen churches may not be over, with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn saying the fight is just beginning.

For his part, Monsignor Cassato says it’s time for New York to look at churches as essential services.