Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020

Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Officials are warning of a surge in coronavirus cases in some Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.

By Jonathan Wolfe

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New York threatens a lockdown

Facing a worrying surge in coronavirus cases in some Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, New York City health officials carried out emergency inspections at private religious schools on Friday. The police also stepped up enforcement of public health guidelines in several Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Queens and in Brooklyn, where residents often do not wear masks or follow social-distancing guidelines.

The Health Department said that if significant progress toward following guidelines did not occur by Monday — which is Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar — it may issue fines, limit gatherings, or force closings of businesses or schools. Four yeshivas have already been closed because of violations of social-distancing rules.

When Times reporters visited Borough Park, one of the neighborhoods that health officials are calling the “Ocean Parkway Cluster,” they saw “hardly a face mask in sight, as if the pandemic had never happened.”

Officials warned of rising cases in some Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, where test positivity rates are 3 percent to 6 percent — significantly more than the city’s overall rate of 1 percent to 2 percent. If cases continue to rise, they could threaten the city’s easing lockdown, including the opening of public schools this month, which will automatically close if citywide positivity rates reach 3 percent.

“This may be the most precarious moment we are facing since we emerged from lockdown,” said Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner.

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