New York mayor proposes closing schools and businesses in 9 areas with high COVID-19 test positivity rates

Author: Dakin Andone / CNN
Published: Updated:
A school bus sits parked outside Midwood High School in the Midwood neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said a recent uptick of coronavirus cases in south Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods requires “urgent action,” including stepped-up testing, education and enforcement. Photographer: Amir Hamja/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday proposed temporarily closing all schools and non-essential businesses in nine ZIP codes that have seen COVID-19 test positivity rates above 3% for at least seven consecutive days.

“It will be difficult for people who have done so much to fight back in this crisis,” the mayor said in a news conference Sunday, characterizing the plan as an effort to “rewind” reopening in nine neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens.

“But it is necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus in these communities and beyond,” he said. “And it’s necessary for the good of all of New York City.”

The proposed plan — which requires state approval — includes the closure of all non-essential businesses, private and public schools and daycares beginning Wednesday, de Blasio said. Restaurants in the affected areas would have to stop indoor and outdoor dining but would be allowed to continue service for to-go orders.

Businesses and schools would be allowed to reopen after two weeks if the ZIP codes have seen seven consecutive days of positivity rates below 3%. If not, they would be closed for at least four weeks.

New York was among the first cities in the United States plunged into crisis. In March, it was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, but the city and the state have since managed to contain the spread of the virus.

The mayor’s proposal Sunday signals a major step back for the city’s reopening effort, coming just days after public schools reopened for in-person classes, though the mayor stressed his proposal was not a response to the spread of the virus in schools.

“What has become clear is that there are a number of neighborhoods now that have continued to have a high level of coronavirus positivity and that requires stronger action than we’ve had to take for many months,” de Blasio said.

The neighborhoods and ZIP codes that would be impacted by the mayor’s proposal include:

• Edgemere/Far Rockaway, ZIP code 11691

• Borough Park, ZIP code 11219

• Gravesend/Homecrest, ZIP code 11223

• Midwood, ZIP code 11230

• Bensonhurst/Mapleton, ZIP code 11204,

• Flatlands/Midwood, ZIP code 11210

• Gerritsen Beach/Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay, ZIP code 11229

• Kew Gardens, ZIP code 11415

• Kew Gardens Hills/Pomonok, ZIP code 11367

Many of the areas have large Orthodox Jewish communities that have seen rising cases and test positivity rates in recent weeks. Several of them were among a series of ZIP codes that Gov. Andrew Cuomo highlighted last week, pointing to “overlap” with Orthodox Jewish communities.

Additionally, the mayor said Sunday lesser restrictions would be put in place in 11 ZIP codes that officials are “concerned” about.

They include parts of Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Manhattan Beach, Bergen Beach, Crown Heights, Rego Park, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest and Jamaica Estates. In those areas, indoor dining, gyms and pools would close if the plan is approved by Cuomo’s office, but schools could remain open.

Health officials on Saturday urged all New Yorkers to take precautions such as wearing face coverings, washing their hands, remaining socially distant and staying home if they are sick. Residents were also asked to avoid large gatherings and remain 12 feet apart if they are singing during worship.

Sunday, Cuomo again highlighted 20 hotspot areas across the state — including many of those targeted by the mayor’s proposal — that he said accounted for 21% of the state’s positive cases Saturday, though they represent less than 7% of the state’s population. Not including those 20 ZIP codes, the average positivity rate across the state was less than 1%, the governor’s office said.

Those 20 areas will be the subject of “targeted enforcement” by state personnel beginning Monday, Cuomo said. The governor also urged local governments to do more to enforce COVID-19 precautions and said he wanted to see more testing in schools.

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