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Cuomo: Schools will shut down in nine hot spot ZIP codes Tuesday

Non-essential businesses to remain open amid COVID surge

October 5, 2020 Associated Press
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday ordered schools in several Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods closed starting Tuesday in response to increasing tallies of coronavirus cases in those areas.

The governor made the announcement a day after the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, asked the state for permission to reinstate restrictions on businesses and schools in nine ZIP codes where positive test rates have remained over 3 percent for the past seven days.

Cuomo said the closures would take place on Tuesday, a day ahead of when the mayor had planned.

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De Blasio’s proposal also included closing non-essential businesses in the affected ZIP codes, including indoor and outdoor dining, just a week after restaurants were cleared to begin welcoming diners back indoors. But Cuomo said the city will take a closer look at data before deciding whether to carry out that part of the plan.

The order will close around 300 schools: 100 public schools, and 200 private schools.

The affected ZIP codes are 11691 (Edgemere/Far Rockaway); 11219 (Borough Park); 11223 (Gravesend/Homecrest); 11230 (Midwood); 11204 (Bensonhurst/Mapleton); 11210 (Flatlands/Midwood); 11229 (Gerritsen Beach/Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay); 11415 (Kew Gardens); and 11367 (Kew Gardens Hills/Pomonok).

A teacher led her students into PS 179 in Kensington on Sept. 29. Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP

“These clusters have to be attacked,” Cuomo said, likening the state to a field of dry grass ready to ignite if burning embers aren’t put out fast.

He said schools in the areas where the virus was spreading hadn’t been doing enough testing of students and staff to identify possible outbreaks and that he could no longer guarantee they were safe.

Cuomo also held off on the part of de Blasio’s plan that would have ordered less sweeping shutdowns in 11 additional, but less severe, hot spot ZIP codes, affecting only high-risk locations and activities such as indoor dining, gyms and pools.

He said he consulted by phone shortly before the news conference with the mayor, the city comptroller, city council speaker and the head of the city’s teachers’ union.

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.

The city’s plan would allow religious institutions to keep offering group services, but Cuomo suggested that he would be willing to shut down temples and churches, too, if they aren’t following the rules.

A mother completed her daughter’s health form outside PS 179 in Kensington on Sept. 29. Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP

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

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 practiced in-person learning 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.

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