Mass religious gatherings may be responsible for a recent rise in newly reported positive COVID-19 cases in certain parts of New York State.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that while the state has remained at or around a 1 percent infection rate for months, the 20 zip codes where there have been the newest outbreaks are closer to 5 percent.
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Specifically, Cuomo mentioned Rockland, Orange, Nassau, Queens, Brooklyn, and New York counties as areas they’re going to keep an eye on in the coming days with targeted enforcement.
“Now that we have this information, we’re going to aggressively target these clusters,” he said. “These are embers that are starting to catch fire in dry grass, so we’re going to send all the fire fighting equipment and personnel to those embers to stamp them out right away.”
Cuomo cited recent religious gatherings as a possible cause of the spread after photos circulated of hundreds congregating without socially distancing themselves or wearing face coverings.
“When you look at these clusters and zip codes, you see an overlap of large Orthodox Jewish communities,” Cuomo noted. “This is a concern for their community and all the communities surrounding them.
The governor noted that religious gatherings are supposed to be limited to 50 percent capacity, families should be six feet apart, and face coverings are required at all times.
“I get that in some areas there’s religious sensitivity … I get it, I do,” Cuomo said. “I’ve said from day one I love and respect the Jewish community, the Orthodox community, the Catholic community, the Muslim community … all of them.
“But these laws apply to everyone and will be enforced against everyone, but you see pictures of religious gatherings with hundreds of people. How did it happen?”
Cuomo said that he planned to meet with the Orthodox community virtually on Tuesday afternoon or on Wednesday, Sept. 30 to reinforce the state’s laws regarding religious gatherings.
“We want to get the entire community,” he added. “We’re going to have Orthodox leaders across the state, from Orange, Rockland, Nassau, Brooklyn, anywhere there are predominant communities.”
“We’ll meet with the leaders of the Orthodox community and local officials in those areas to make sure that we’re all on the same page, but (local) enforcement and compliance is key.”
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