NEW YORK — After several neighborhoods recently recorded upticks in coronavirus cases — and part of southern Brooklyn was designated a coronavirus cluster site as a result — the city warned it might need to shut down non-public schools and non-essential businesses if the situation doesn’t improve.
Starting Friday, the city will begin inspecting private schools in the affected neighborhoods and their adjacent zip codes, the city health department said. More enforcement staff will be deployed in these communities to ensure social distancing and other guidelines are being followed.
According to health officials, these changes affect neighborhoods that include:
- Gravesend/Homecrest (6 percent increase in cases)
- Midwood (4.95)
- Edgemere Far Rockaway (4.08)
- Kew Gardens (3.99)
- Borough Park (3.53)
- Bensonhurst/Mapleton (3.16)
- Gerritsen Beach/Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay (3.07)
- Flatlands/Midwood (3.06)
- Williamsburg (1.67)
The inspection news came one day after the city announced it was shutting down two yeshivas amid the COVID-19 spike in southern Brooklyn.
If no progress is made by Monday evening in these neighborhoods, the city warned, more action will be taken starting Tuesday, which could include:
- Barring gatherings of more than 10 people
- Fines for people who refuse to wear a mask
- The immediate closure of all nonessential businesses
- The closure of private schools and child care centers that fail to meet Department of Education standards
The health department said the rate of people wearing masks in these neighborhoods has been “overwhelmingly low” compared to other parts of New York City.
Officials have referred to the rise in cases in Borough Park, Midwood, and Bensonhurst as "The Ocean Parkway Cluster” because of the especially rapid increases in rates there over the last three weeks. That cluster represents 20 percent of all new COVID-19 citywide in the past week.
On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio did not go into detail about whether the uptick in cases was tied to a specific activity or event, but he stressed large scale gatherings like weddings and religious activity were still banned.
In recent months, the city has reported other upticks tied to large gatherings, including a large wedding that took place in Borough Park resulting in over a dozen cases of the virus in that neighborhood.
Overall, for more than a month, the city’s rate of positive COVID-19 cases from tests conducted has hovered around 1 percent with a handful of deaths a day — a dramatic drop from the peak of the pandemic in the spring, when hundreds of people were dying every day.
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This story includes reporting from Gloria Pazmino.
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