By Mark Hallum
As clusters of COVID-19 cases keep popping up in New York City and northern suburban areas, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that his administration is going into high alert to mitigate further spread of COVID-19 through targeted measures.
Comparing the sporadic, yet steady spread of the disease to that of a wildfire starting from an ember, the governor put local governments on notice not to slack off on enforcing mask and social distancing requirements, while also pleading with the Orthodox Jewish community — among some of the areas hardest hit by the latest COVID-19 spikes — to take precautions seriously.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would begin crackdown on those who fail to wear masks in public. He also warned against the growing number of COVID-19 clusters, particularly in Brooklyn and Queens.
Cuomo said there are 20 ZIP codes statewide that are experiencing spikes.
“These are embers that are starting to catch fire in dry grass, send all the firefighting equipment and personnel to those embers and stamp out the embers right away. That’s what this data does,” Cuomo said. “We’ve shared all this data with the local governments. They’re the first line of response, they must respond. They have been very uneven across the state as you know and I’ve expressed my frustration with candor when the moment requires … A cluster today can be community spread tomorrow.”
Cuomo said there are meetings are planned with religious leaders from the Orthodox Jewish community and elected officials where clusters are present to promote compliance of the state mask mandate – and enforcement – for those individuals.
Monday, the state deployed up to 200 rapid testing machines and kits to the 20 cluster zip codes, which average an infection rate of 5%.
“We’re not there yet on closing, this could be hell to clusters if the local governments respond and respond in a way they haven’t until now,” Cuomo said. “I get that in some areas there’s religious sensitivity, let’s be honest. Because I love you, that’s why I’m enforcing these laws.”
The governor added that he would consider state intervention in the scenario that local governments are not proactive in smothering the virus in these clusters.