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New York City to Close Schools, Businesses in Neighborhoods Where COVID-19 Has Spiked

Students wait in line for a temperature check before their first day of in person school at I.S. 318, amid the coronavirus outbreak in Brooklyn, N.Y., October 1, 2020. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

New York City is looking to close public schools and nonessential businesses in nine zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens on Wednesday, citing the neighborhoods’ week-long surge in coronavirus cases after months of a low case count in the city.

The plan — which would affect Far Rockaway, Edgemere, Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills and Pomonok in Queens, and Borough Park, Gravesend, Homecrest, Midwood, Bensonhurst, Mapleton, Flatlands, Gerritsen Beach and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn — is still awaiting approval from the state, mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news conference on Sunday.

A spokesman for the Democratic mayor told the Wall Street Journal that the city had shared the plan with the state on Sunday morning and is hoping for “swift approval.”

The mayor’s announcement came shortly after New York governor Andrew Cuomo said that the state would be strictly enforcing guidelines meant to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in parts of the state with a high number of cases.

“Local governments have not done an effective job of enforcement in these hot spot ZIP Codes,” Cuomo said.

The increased enforcement was triggered by an increasing positivity rate in the areas, which has stayed over 3 percent for seven consecutive days.

De Blasio called the restrictions painful but necessary to keep the virus from spreading. He said the Wednesday shut down would give the neighborhoods time to prepare, including those with a large Orthodox Jewish community, where the holiday Sukkot is being celebrated.

“We can stop this from being a ‘second wave’ in New York City,” he said. “In these communities it is a very troublesome reality that has to be addressed aggressively.”

Houses of worship will stay open with existing occupancy restrictions, in accordance with a federal court order requiring religious institutions to stay open, according the Journal.

In order to have the partial shutdown lifted, the areas would need to meet certain standards and have average positivity rates lower than 3 percent for two weeks or 28 days, depending on other factors, the Journal reported.

City-wide, the seven-day average positivity rate is 1.72 percent. The city is monitoring 11 other zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens with higher positivity rates that have not yet reached the 3 percent marker that would trigger greater alarm. The city has increased testing, outreach and enforcement of mask-wearing in these areas.

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