New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says all non-essential businesses, public and private schools in nine postcodes in Brooklyn and Queens will close on Wednesday, if approved by the state, after coronavirus cases over the past seven years days were reported about a positivity rate of 3 percent.
The closings would affect approximately half a million people in the following zip codes: 11691 (Edgemere / Far Rockaway), 11219 (Borough Park), 11223 (Gravesend / Homecrest), 11230 (Midwood), 11204 (Bensonhurt / Mapleton), 11210 (Flatlands / Midwood), 11229 (Gerritsen Beach / Homecrest / Sheepshead Bay), 11415 (Kew Gardens), 11367 (Kew Gardens Hills / Pomonok).
According to the mayor, around 100 public and 200 non-public schools would be closed within these nine zip codes. Students with the zip codes listed could return to their schools on Monday and Tuesday to meet with teachers and plan a school-wide return to distance learning.
Schools in affected zip codes could theoretically switch all-remote for as little as two weeks, or up to four weeks, depending on the success of efforts to lower the positivity rate that clusters contain, says de Blasio.
Indoor and outdoor meals are also obtained from restaurants, with dining options reserved for take-away and delivery orders. Shuls and other places of worship, the mayor said, would not be included in the request to close.
According to De Blasio, Wednesday was chosen to begin with these drastic setbacks in the city’s reopening strategy, so that the affected communities have enough time to prepare for the expected closings.
Another 11 zip codes that the city says are cause for concern but still fall short of the 3 percent positivity threshold could also suffer their own setbacks. De Blasio says part of the city’s proposal to the state will include the closure of restaurants, gyms and pools in these 11 postcodes, but not the closure of schools and other businesses that are not considered material.
“We are waiting for the approval and support of the state before we move on,” reiterated de Blasio during his announcement on Sunday. “This is a measure taken out of caution.”
If the state approves the rollbacks proposed by de Blasio, the mayor has identified two possible scenarios that would trigger the municipalities’ reopening steps.
This announcement follows Governor Andrew Cuomo’s instructions to dispatch the New York State Police to begin “aggressive” enforcement in all zip codes and report the highest levels of positivity for the coronavirus.
Citing lack of action by local governments, the New York governor told reporters on a conference call on Sunday that the time for education was over.
“We’re putting together a task force … and we will be doing targeted enforcement on each of these clusters,” he said. “But it’s the same thing we did with bars and restaurants, which was very effective. It’s going to be targeted enforcement. It’s not going to be public education, we’re past that point.”
The collection of 20 zip codes identified by state health officials battling to contain the recent outbreaks had a positivity rate of 4.8 percent yesterday, Cuomo said. The percentage is down slightly from the previous day, which the state put at 5.2 percent, but the governor said the weekend dates “may differ a little”.
New York ran around 110,000 virus tests on Saturday after running 134,000 record-breaking tests the day before.
“Local businesses that break the law are fined and can be closed, as can bars and restaurants. If businesses break the assembly rules, they can be fined and closed,” Cuomo warned.
This story evolves.