Businesses and schools in coronavirus hot spots in New York state must close by the end of the week, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
Cuomo announced plans for a “Cluster Action Initiative,” where groups of cases would be geographically identified by red, orange and yellow, rather than ZIP codes.
The state will focus on red, or “intense action,” areas in Brooklyn, Queens, and Rockland and Orange counties. Local governments will get color-coded maps of the clusters to see where their community falls, Cuomo said at a briefing at the Capitol in Albany.
Schools and nonessential businesses in red communities must close no later than Friday, Cuomo said. The rules will be in effect for 14 days, and then the state will reassess the situation, he said.
New York City employees will communicate with residents of affected neighborhoods and enforcement will likely begin Thursday, according to a tweet from Bill Neidhardt, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The changes come as Covid-19 cases reach three-month highs in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, marking the return of the virus to a region that has already suffered America’s heaviest toll. In New York, of more than 96,000 tests reported on Monday, 1,393 were positive, about 1.45% statewide, according to the latest data. There were 705 hospitalizations and nine virus-related fatalities.
Read More: Signals Mount That Covid-19 Is Returning to the New York Area
Cuomo likened the areas meriting intense action to ripples after a pebble is dropped in a pond. The main cluster is the center, with outer circles being precautionary areas.
Clusters can be about one mile in diameter. “These are geographically circumscribed, relatively small, but that’s why they’re clusters,” Cuomo said. “The trick is to keep them small.”
In red areas, houses of worship can have only 25% capacity with a maximum of 10 people. Mass gatherings are prohibited and only essential businesses can be open. Schools will only be allowed to have remote access, and there can only be takeout dining.
In orange areas, places of worship can have 33% capacity with a maximum of 25 people, and gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and outdoors, Cuomo said. High-risk nonessential businesses like gyms and hair salons will be closed. Outdoor dining only will be allowed, and limited to four people per table.
In the yellow areas, places of worship are limited to 50% capacity, and up to 25 people can gather indoors or outdoors. Businesses will remain open, and indoor and outdoor dining will be limited to four people per table. Schools can stay open but must implement mandatory weekly testing.
Those who don’t follow the mass gathering rules will be fined $15,000, he said.
New York City must deploy 450 police officers to enforce the state’s rules, the governor said. He said the outbreaks were caused by the city’s failure to enforce mask-wearing and social-distance requirements, particularly with mass gatherings at houses of worship.
“In New York City, the first rules weren’t enforced,” he said. “Houses of worship weren’t supposed to have more than 50 people They’ve had hundreds.”
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