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Cuomo Says ‘Religious Practices’ of Orthodox Jews Causing Virus to Spread in New York City

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo takes part in a regional cannabis and vaping summit in New York City, New York, U.S., October 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday singled out the “religious practices” of Orthodox Jews as the cause of renewed spread of the coronavirus in New York City.

“We’re now having issues in the Orthodox Jewish community in New York, where because of their religious practices, etc., we’re seeing a spread,” Cuomo said.

Last week, Orthodox Jewish leaders vehemently criticized Cuomo and took to the streets of Brooklyn to protest the governor’s new coronavirus restrictions on schools, businesses, and houses of worship. The restrictions would shutter schools, non-essential businesses, and strictly limit the number of congregants allowed in houses of worship, in some areas allowing only ten worshippers at a time. Many of the Brooklyn and Queens “red zones” designated for the new restrictions are Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.

“We are appalled by Governor Cuomo’s words and actions today,” read a letter from four Orthodox Jewish lawmakers who represent the neighborhoods affected by the new restrictions. “He has chosen to pursue a scientifically and constitutionally questionable shutdown of our communities.”

During a protest in Borough Park, demonstrators lit at least one fire in the street, and activist Harold “Heshy” Tischler was charged in an alleged attack on an Orthodox Jewish reporter who was targeted by the crowd during the protest.

Cuomo blamed the growing frustration on the failure of communities to follow the state’s previous restrictions, allowing the virus to spread.

“To the extent there are communities that are upset, that’s because they haven’t been following the original rules,” Cuomo said. “That’s why the infection spread, because they weren’t following the rules and the rules weren’t being enforced.”

Coronavirus hospitalizations spiked Wednesday from 705 to 748 patients, Cuomo said.

The coronavirus outbreak in New York is entering a “new phase,” the governor said, specifically “mini clusters” across the state that spring from a single event, such as a party or bar that did not observe social distancing rules.

“This is not going away anytime soon,” Cuomo said. “Best case scenario, we’re looking at another year … even if everything works out well.”

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