Facing an increase in coronavirus infections in certain neighborhoods, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that he would close all nonessential businesses, public and private schools, and daycares in nine ZIP codes throughout Brooklyn and Queens, to ensure that the virus doesn't spread further.
Assuming Gov. Andrew Cuomo approves the plan, the closures would begin on Wednesday. Cuomo did not comment on whether he would approve the plan on Sunday, but said in a tweet, "Local governments have not done an effective job of enforcement" in certain "hotspot ZIP codes."
"It pains me to be putting forward this approach that we'll need, but in some parts of our city — in Brooklyn and Queens — we are having extraordinary problems," de Blasio said. "Something we haven't seen since the spring."
After initially leading the nation in positive coronavirus tests, New York City was able to get the virus under control earlier this year through strong messaging on the importance of social distancing and the widespread closures of businesses. But in recent weeks, city officials and residents had been watching the numbers tick back up, particularly in Orthodox Jewish areas.
The areas de Blasio mentioned in Brooklyn and Queens have been above a 3% positivity level on testing for seven or more consecutive days. That necessitates additional action, de Blasio said. "It is necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus in these communities and beyond."
Indoor and outdoor dining will be suspended in these areas. Pick-up and delivery orders will still be permitted.
Today I’m announcing a proposal to close ALL schools and nonessential businesses in these zip codes on Wednesday, October 7.— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) October 4, 2020
The affected zip codes are 11691, 11219, 11223, 11230, 11204, 11210, 11229, 11415 and 11367.
The ZIP codes encompass areas in Central Queens, Southern Brooklyn and Far Rockaway. They correspond with areas with a high Hasidic Jewish population. "We are concerned about how Covid-19 may be affecting Orthodox communities — in these neighborhoods and beyond," Patrick Gallahue, a spokesman for the city's Health Department, said in late September, The New York Times reported.
Of the nine areas highlighted, seven had experienced a positive test rate above 3% for the past two weeks. And some of those areas, especially in Far Rockaway and Southern Brooklyn, are seeing a 14-day positivity rate as high as 7 or 8%.
There has been very little coronavirus activity within the schools, but de Blasio said they need to be closed "out of an abundance of caution." If after two weeks the areas drop back below a rolling seven-day 3% positivity rate, the restrictions could be lifted, he said.
An additional 11 ZIP codes are approaching 3% positivity rates as well, and the city plans to watch them very carefully. They include several areas of Williamsburg, and additional areas in Southern Brooklyn and Central Queens. The city will engage in "intensive outreach efforts" to test and enforce guidelines, de Blasio said.
Places of high-risk activity such as indoor dining, gyms and pools will be closed there beginning Wednesday, he said.
"This will not be easy at all," the mayor said. "But it's something that we believe is necessary to keep this city from going backwards, towards where we were months ago."