NEW ROCHELLE, NY — On the day that Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that the State University of New York and the City University of New York will move classes online — and off-campus — due to the coronavirus, New Rochelle spent its first day with some schools shuttered.
It comes a day before a COVID-19 containment zone is set up here by the New York National Guard, and the whole situation shows that the changes are not going to be easy.
Residents of the city of 80,000 are describing anxiety and weariness in a New York community that is home to one of nation’s biggest clusters of coronavirus cases.
State officials have set up a “containment area” in the New York City suburb of New Rochelle, where schools and houses of worship are closed within a 1-mile radius of a point near a synagogue where an infected person had attended events.
The National Guard will be deployed Thursday, but in anticipation of that, three public schools within the zone were shut down Wednesday.
Many students at William Ward Elementary, Albert Leonard Middle School, and New Rochelle High School receive free breakfast and lunch. On Wednesday, those were distributed by the city government at community centers.
“It’s good that they’re doing it,” said Adoberto Gonzalez, Jr., a student at Leonard Middle School.
He and his father, Adoberto Sr., said that it also helps that the city schools are letting students borrow laptop computers to take home.
“I have a lot of homework,” Gonzalez, Jr. said.
However, some people in the community feel that all of the city’s schools should be shut down temporarily.
“You have families where one child goes to a shut down school, and another goes to an open school,” said Rev. Mark McLean, the president of the local NAACP. “It’s like being half pregnant.”
He said that he was concerned that the situation will perpetuate the illness, rather than stop it.
State officials stress the containment zone plan is not a lockdown. Many shops and restaurants are open but empty inside the area Wednesday.
Meanwhile, businesses in the containment zone are hurting.
“Look around,” said Josh Berkowitz, owner of the Eden Wok kosher Chinese restaurant. “How many people do you see?”
The entire strip of businesses on North Avenue, the main shopping area of town, were empty.
Crews at New Rochelle’s commuter rail station are disinfecting turnstiles, handrails and other surfaces twice a day.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the containment zone plan Tuesday. He called it “a dramatic action.”