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New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has asked the state for permission to close schools and reinstate restrictions on non-essential businesses in several neighborhoods because of a resurgence of the coronavirus.
The action, if approved, would mark a disheartening retreat for a city that enjoyed a summer with less spread of the virus than most other parts of the US, and recently celebrated the return of students citywide to in-person learning in classrooms.
Shutdowns would happen starting on Wednesday in nine zip codes in the city, de Blasio said on Sunday.
About 100 public schools and 200 private schools would have to close. Indoor dining, which just resumed a few days ago, would be suspended. Outdoor restaurant dining would shut down in the affected neighborhoods as well, and gyms would close. Houses of worship would be allowed to remain open with existing restrictions in place, de Blasio said.
He said he was taking the action in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading deeper into the city and becoming a “second wave”, like the one that killed more than 24,000 New Yorkers in the spring.
“We’ve learned over and over from this disease that it is important to act aggressively, and when the data tells us it’s time for even the toughest and most rigorous actions we follow the data, we follow the science,” de Blasio said.
Over the past two weeks, the number of new cases of the virus has been rising in pockets of the city, predominantly in neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens that are home to the city’s large Orthodox Jewish population. Nearly 1,100 people have tested positive in Brooklyn in just the last four days, according to state figures.
De Blasio made the announcement shortly after Andrew Cuomo complained that local governments with coronavirus hot spots had “not done an effective job” of enforcing social distancing rules.
“If a local jurisdiction cannot or will not perform effective enforcement of violating entities, notify the state and we will close all business activity in the hot spots where the local governments cannot do compliance,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo did not immediately comment on de Blasio’s proposed shutdown in the areas where the virus is spiking.
As many as 500,000 people live in the neighborhoods affected by the proposed shutdown, de Blasio said. He said the lockdown could be lifted in 14 days or 28 days if the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 declines.
The coronavirus was estimated to have hit between 1 and 2 million people in New York City, mostly in the spring before testing was widely available. Thousands of people fell ill each day. By the summer’s end, the city appeared to have the virus partly in check, averaging fewer than 240 new cases per day citywide as recently as 7 September.
Overall, the city’s infection rate remains relatively low, with around 420 new cases a day over the past few days, but those have been concentrated in a handful of neighborhoods. The nine zip codes singled out by the mayor have been responsible for more than 20% of all new infections in the city over the past four weeks, though they represent only 7% of the population.
De Blasio had said in the past that public schools were largely unaffected by the rise in virus infections in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, but he said on Sunday public schools in hot spot neighborhoods would be closed “out of an abundance of caution”.
United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew praised the decision. “This is the right decision, one that helps protect our schools, our neighborhoods, and ultimately our city,“ Mulgrew said.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: New York mayor bids to shut schools and businesses in Covid hotspots | New York