New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday that he wants to shut down huge swaths of the city in drastic new measures not seen since late March, just before COVID-19 exploded in the city.
“We’re having an extraordinary problem—something we haven’t seen since spring,’’ de Blasio told reporters on a conference call, the New York Post reported. “Today, unfortunately, is not a day for celebration,” he said. “Today is a more difficult day.”
Under the mayor’s proposal, nine COVID-19 hot-spot neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens would lock down starting Wednesday, meaning all non-essential businesses would close, as well as indoor and even outdoor restaurant dining. In addition, all public and private schools would also be shut down.
About a half-million people would be affected, the Post said.
In his call with reporters, de Blasio noted that the lockdowns “will require the support and approval of the state’’ and that city officials will be holding “intensive’’ talks with the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo. “This can only happen with state approval,’’ the mayor said. “We’ll be working to get approval.”
According to a Sunday press release, Governor Cuomo said, “Local governments have not done an effective job of enforcement in these hot spot ZIP codes. The State will be doing aggressive enforcement starting tomorrow.” The Governor added: “As we saw with bars and restaurants, when the State initiated enforcement actions compliance greatly increased.”
“Meanwhile, another 11 neighborhoods in the city are on a ‘watch list’ over their COVID-19 numbers—and would lose indoor dining and have their gyms and pools closed starting Wednesday morning under the city’s push,” the Post said. “The 11 zip codes could end up going into full lockdown, like the most worrisome nine zip codes, if their numbers don’t improve, the mayor warned.”
If “the localities do not do testing immediately in the schools in those areas, the State will close them immediately,” Cuomo continued.
The nine ZIP codes subject to the most severe restrictions include portions of Far Rockaway and Kew Gardens in Queens, and Borough Park, Midwood, Gravesend, Bensonhurst, and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, The New York Times reported.
“The restrictions would be in place in these neighborhoods for two to four weeks, if not longer, depending on the success of efforts to curb the virus, the mayor said,” according to the Times.
There are about 1,800 public schools in New York City. The new restrictions come just three days after the city’s school system fully reopened. Children returned to elementary school classrooms on Tuesday, and to middle and high schools on Thursday. Principals and teachers have been working for months to prepare for in-person learning.
The mayor emphasized that the school closures were not prompted by outbreaks in schools, but came “out of an abundance of caution.” “We have seen very little coronavirus activity in our schools,” he said.
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