Orthodox Jewish leaders to develop COVID-19 action plan with NY health officials

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NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke with leaders of the Orthodox Jewish community to develop a plan to tackle neighborhoods in the state that are seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Leaders of the Orthodox Jewish community are expected to meet with the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, to draft an action plan to encourage neighborhoods, particularly in “hotspot zip codes” where cases are spiking, to follow coronavirus restrictions and dispel misinformation.

“How do we educate the public, how do we use the media, how do we use the newspapers that circulate in the community, the radio stations in the community, how do we have community meets, how do we get the word out?” Cuomo highlighted as questions the action plan would answer.

During Cuomo’s conversation with leaders, they offered several theories as to why people in these communities are not following coronavirus rules, including the belief in herd immunity, President Donald Trump’s anti-mask rhetoric and a lack of enforcement by local governments.

The discussion comes as New York state has seen clusters in about 20 “hotspot zip codes,” particularly in Rockland and Orange counties and the city’s boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. These clusters amount to over 20% of cases across the state, according the governor.

Cuomo also criticized the local governments for their lack of enforcement on mask wearing and social distancing.

He said he will create a task force using a mix of state and local police to enforce mask wearing if local governments refuse to step up in fears of making residents “unhappy.”

“It’s not a function for the local government to say to someone ‘it would be nice if you wore a mask. Can I give you a mask? We’re past that point,'” the governor said. “It’s not about public education. Enforce the law.”

In New York City, the nine areas of concern amount to 25% of the city’s COVID-19 infection rate, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his Wednesday briefing.

Those neighborhoods, including Kew Gardens, Bensonhurst, Gravesend and Borough Park, have seen over a 3% rate of infection despite the city’s overall rate of infection lowering from previous days.

In an attempt to fight the recent uptick, New York City health officials are conducting new plans of action, including hosting “block parties,” which convert streets and sidewalks to testing sites and have results within 24 hours.Self-administered tests at high-traffic areas, including schools, religious institutions and grocery stores would also provide results within 48 hours, and rapid point of care testing machines would also be provided to Health + Hospitals facilities at hotspot neighborhoods.

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