Brooklyn Paper: Cuomo to close schools in COVID-19 hotspots


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Schools must close starting Tuesday in six Brooklyn neighborhoods where COVID-19 cases have surged, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who put forward the plan, aimed to begin the closures on Wednesday, but Cuomo announced the earlier start date at a Monday afternoon press conference. 

“The state is going to take over the enforcement oversight in all the hotspot clusters,” said Cuomo, referencing the need to enforce the upcoming restaurant and bar closures. “Local government will need to provide us with personnel.”

De Blasio advocated for the closure of non-essential businesses in affected areas as well, but Cuomo said that while he encourages restaurants and other businesses to close, he is not issuing an executive order mandating their shutdown yet. 

Affected neighborhoods

The six ZIP codes are clustered mostly in southern Brooklyn: Borough Park (11219), Gravesend/Homecrest (11223), Midwood (11230), Bensonhurst/Mapleton (11204), Flatlands/Midwood (11210) and Gerritsen Beach/Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay (11229). Combined, the neighborhoods are home to more than half a million New Yorkers.

Each of the ZIP codes have seen daily COVID-19 positivity rates above 3 percent for at least seven consecutive days — a threshold that requires the city to act quickly to prevent the clusters from growing into another widespread outbreak, de Blasio said Sunday.

“It will be very difficult for those who live in these ZIP codes in all these communities,” the mayor said on Sunday. “But it is necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus in these communities and beyond. We have to keep the overall low positivity level in the rest of the city.”

Borough Park has seen the highest COVID-19 rates in the city, with an average of 8.31 percent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive every day for the last two weeks. Gravesend and Homecrest are experiencing the second largest surge with 7.59 percent of tests are coming back positive, and Midwood third, with a 6.98 percent, according to city data

Three areas of Queens experiencing COVID-19 upticks and will also be on lockdown: Far Rockaway/Edgere (11691) Kew Gardens (11415) and Kew Gardens Hills/Pomonok (11367).

School and business closures

All public schools in the affected areas will revert completely to remote learning from the blended model, and daycare centers must close. But Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said the Department of Education is ready to make the quick change. 

“A lot of the logistics were already in the works,” Carranza said. “The good news is that we’ve already done this before, and our planning has always included the eventuality that we would one day need to pivot toward remote learning. We’re very much ready to go.”

If Cuomo approves of de Blasio’s business closure plan, restaurants — which were permitted to resume limited indoor dining just last week — will be required to halt all dining services except for delivery or take-out options.

The Brooklyn Public Library branches in the affected areas will also temporarily shutter their grab-and-go services, library officials announced on Monday.

The state will only lift the restrictions when ZIP codes see a less than 3-percent daily positivity rate averaged over either two weeks or four weeks that must include several consecutive days with less than 3-percent positivity, de Blasio said.

The renewed pause order for the nine ZIP codes would not prevent residents from traveling to other parts of the city. The mayor, however, expressed confidence that the new pause order would encourage people to “double down all over the city” on following precautions to ensure the spread stops.

‘Watch list’ restrictions

The city is keeping an eye on 11 other Brooklyn and Queens ZIP codes where COVID-19 cases are trending upward. 

Those ZIP codes include Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant/Clinton Hill/Fort Greene (11205), East Williamsburg/Williamsburg (11211/11249), Brighton Beach/Manhattan Beach/Sheepshead Bay (11235), Bergen Beach/Flatlands/Marine Park/Mill Basin (11234), Crown Heights East (11213) and Windsor Terrace/Kensington (11218). These neighborhood is experiencing a positivity rate of between one and three percent. 

The Queens communities on the watchlist are Rego Park (11374), Fresh Meadows/Hillcrest (11366), Hillcrest/Jamaica Estates/Jamaica Hills (11432) and Auburndale/Fresh Meadows/Pomonok/Utopia (11365).

This article first appeared on AMNY.com.

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