NEW YORK: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday he planned to reimpose restrictions on nine neighborhoods as COVID-19 cases rise in parts of the city, which had largely controlled the virus after a catastrophic outbreak. The proposal, which must be approved by state Governor Andrew Cuomo, marks a major setback for America's largest city since it was hit hard in March by the coronavirus. The city has lost almost 24,000 people to the virus.
"Today, unfortunately, is not a day for celebration," de Blasio said, announcing he would ask to close nonessential businesses and all schools in nine neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. If approved by the governor, who has not yet weighed in, the new restrictions would be the first step back toward lockdown in the city. New York City became the global epicenter of the pandemic in spring, but more recently officials had touted the lowest rates of test positivity and infection among major US cities.
Several of the nine neighborhoods have large populations of Orthodox Jews, and the virus has been spreading rapidly in that community in recent weeks. The increases coincided with the Jewish High Holidays, the most holy days in the Jewish calendar, that culminated last Monday with Yom Kippur.
'Rewind' of city's reopening
De Blasio has faced criticism previously for his handling of the virus response among the city's Jewish residents. He triggered fury in April when he threatened "the Jewish community" with summons and arrest after a large crowd of Hasidic Jews gathered for a rabbi's funeral in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood.
The nine neighborhoods now targeted by the mayor have seen the rate at which people are testing positive for the virus remain above three percent for the past seven days, despite authorities intervening to encourage mask-wearing and other safety practices. De Blasio said he intended to "rewind" the city's reopening in the worst-affected areas, according to the New York Times.
The city is also monitoring 11 additional ZIP codes that de Blasio described as of "real concern." His proposal comes just days after hundreds of thousands of the city's children began returning to in-person school for the first time since March, and restaurants were allowed to resume limited indoor service. New York City is considered America's cultural capital, and its world-class restaurants have been hard-hit by the virus.
However, authorities allowed eateries to resume indoor service at 25 percent capacity as economic pressure grew for loosening restrictions. Following increases in cases in 20 of the city's 146 neighborhoods, New York City's leaders are following a model of localized measures, also taken in other nations like South Korea and Singapore. - AFP