By Mark Hallum
After weeks of urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to step up enforcement of COVID-19 protocols and an ensuing series of hotspots across the city, Governor Andrew Cuomo now means to rein in the spread with state resources.
With 14 Brooklyn and Queens zip codes coming back with anywhere between 1.4% and 6% infection rates on a two-week average, the governor plans to put state police and testing personnel on the ground in these communities in order to prevent further outbreak.
According to Cuomo, the statewide average would be 0.9% if not for the cumulative infection rate of 4.8% in all 20 zip codes seeing an increase.
“The state is going to start direct enforcement in these hotspot zip codes, we have started yesterday and we’re going to be increasing the state-issued enforcement itself starting tomorrow. Local businesses that are in violation of the law will be fined and can be closed just like the bars and restaurants. If there are businesses that are violating the gathering rules, they can be fine and they will be closed,” Cuomo said. “Life has options and we didn’t have any; that’s where we are with these hotspot zip codes.”
In anticipation of resources being stretched too thin to enforce all of the hotspot zip codes, Cuomo says that if local governments do not commit their own resources he will impose a shutdown on all businesses within these areas.
Cuomo’s task force on social distancing and mask compliance that was deployed to bars and restaurants who openly flaunted safety requirements will continue to work in these communities, some of which are inhabited by Orthodox Jewish people where many gatherings are still being braved in respect to religious observations.
The state police and the Department of Health will also be monitoring schools where Cuomo sees a high level of threat for community spread. The governor plans to bring more testing to schools in order to prevent the virus from spreading outside these zip codes with children from different schools intermingling.
According to Cuomo, the time for public outreach is over with New Yorkers now entering the seventh month of life in this pandemic, and the time for governments to enforce regulations is now.
“I don’t believe there’s anyone left in this state who doesn’t know that there are mask, social distancing, and gathering requirements. I don’t believe it’s an issue with public education, I believe it’s an issue of enforcement and that’s what we’re going to do,” Cuomo added.
Cuomo said he has spent several days working with “ultra-orthodox” communities and believes they will continue to be cooperative with the state going forward.