The Orange County Health Department served a cease-and-desist letter to the United Talmudical Academy (UTA) of Kiryas Joel Boys School in Palm Tree after officials visited the school with New York State Police troopers and found “what appeared to be hundreds of students inside.”
According to reports, the students were not socially distancing or wearing PPE, both against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order that was issued in March closing schools.
At the time health officials visited the school, there were reportedly dozens of students in classrooms not practicing social distancing, with very few wearing masks.
The school is part of the United Talmudical Academy, the largest of three Hasidic school systems serving roughly 14,500 children in Orange County. It was notified of the cease-and-desist order on Wednesday, May 20.
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“It has come to our attention that your school has opened in violation of the Governor’s Executive Orders and is operating in a way which endangers the hundreds of students and others who are entering or remaining in that facility,” County Health Commissioner Irina Gelman stated. “COVID-19 is a rapidly spreading infection which appears to be transmitted by droplets and close contact.”
If the school continues to operate, officials said that it could face criminal prosecution, including criminal negligence for individuals.
“The County Health Department investigates as many complaints as we can, based on the severity of the potential violation as it pertains to the threat to public health during this communicable disease pandemic,” Gelman said. “We refer all other potential violations of the Governor’s Executive Order to law enforcement as part of New York’s PAUSE program. This school has been notified that they are not to continue to operate and we expect them to comply.”
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