Distrust, disinterest in New York neighborhoods shut down over outbreaks

By Jorge Fuentelsaz

New York City, US, Oct 6 (efe-epa).- New York City authorities announced Tuesday the closure of all non-essential businesses in nine neighborhoods in an attempt to curb the spread of the COVID-19.

Members of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community were seen walking along the half-empty streets without face masks, and were called out by the authorities over their rejection of norms such wearing masks and social distancing.

According to the authorities, the recent Jewish New Year celebrations (Sep. 18-20) and Yom Kippur (Sep. 28-29) attracted hundreds of devotees who did not respect the precautionary measures.

“A mass gathering causes infections. Infections cause a cluster. A cluster causes community spread,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday at a press conference in which he announced the new restrictions that will be implemented from Friday.

Cuomo also pointed out that the most affected communities are those in which large communities of Orthodox Jews reside, and stated that he has held discussions with their leaders to ask that this sector of the population follow the rules.

“I understand the imposition this is going to place on them, and I said to them I need their cooperation. I need their partnership,” he said.

The new measures will affect gyms, bars and personal care centers in nine neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as areas of Rockland, Orange, Nassau and Binghamton counties, where they have registered a significant increase in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks.

At the Yeshiva Yitzchok Spinka religious center, located in the zip code 11204 of Brooklyn’s Mapleton neighborhood, numerous men from the Hasidic Jewish community were seen coming and going without wearing a mask.

In nearby Gravesend Park, the City Council has installed a mobile medical tent for residents in order to monitor the evolution of positive cases, which in the zip code 11204 soared to 10.7 percent on Sunday, after having remained at 5.1 percent on average in the last 14 days.

Under condition of anonymity, the person in charge of this center complained about the low commitment of the residents in the area and told EFE that only 17 people had taken the test all day, when in other medical tents located in hotspots there are around 150 people per day asking to take a free COVID-19 test.

He also pointed out that throughout the entire week, only 50 people came to the facilities.

Public school 192 on Tuesday has only opened its doors to deliver meals to the families of students who need them, after the closure of education centers was decreed on Monday as the first containment measure.

The empty school buses and the numerous children accompanied by their parents are a reflection that the classrooms are already empty, and they will continue to be for at least two weeks and possibly four if positive test rates do not drop below 3 percent.

An official who distributed food and who did not want to identify herself criticized the measures of the mayor’s and governor’s offices, convinced that they have taken the measures to punish the Ultra-Orthodox community.

Santos Gutierrez, the owner of the restaurant U & I complained to EFE about the restrictions and said it was unfair that he has to close his business while another located two blocks away – in another zip code – remained open.

“How is it possible that from McDonald Avenue to here all the businesses are closed and two blocks down the street they remain open?” he asked before underlining that even though they decree the closure of non-essential businesses, people travel between neighborhoods.

Gutierres, who will be forced to close just two days after opening his indoor dining area, was concerned about the impact that the new measure may have on his family business, where he works with his brother.

“What the mayor has done is very wrong… It is silly (closing by zip codes) because people travel and the virus is going to spread in one way or another,” he concluded.

The governor’s plan announced Tuesday includes three types of measures. The most restrictive will be carried out in areas with higher rates of positive cases, called “red zones,” but the new regulations will also affect the nearby areas or “orange zones” and the “yellow zones” as well. For example, the number of people joining mass gatherings will be limited.

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