ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered new restrictions on pandemic hot spots in New York City, although they do not go as far as the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, had requested.
The governor, who has the sole authority over all such actions, will require several schools to close and revert to online-only instruction, and said further actions could be on the table soon. De Blasio had asked for a shutdown of all nonessential businesses in zip codes with rising infection rates, all of them in Brooklyn and Queens.
“Picture those hot spots as a embers within the field of dry grass,” Cuomo said. “The only course is to run to those embers and stamp them out immediately and dramatically.”
The most decisive action Cuomo ordered is a closure of schools in the affected zip codes, which are associated with nine neighborhoods. That will start on Tuesday, a day earlier than de Blasio proposed.
The governor said that places such as restaurants, nonessential businesses and public spaces “should close,” but did not immediately order them to do so. He both argued that they’re not as critical to shut down, and that the current metrics used for assessing hot spots won’t work perfectly for mandating closures.
“The businesses are not mass spreaders,” he said. “You’re talking about small stores — you’re not talking about large box stores in these communities. Businesses will be really affected by the lines you draw, and I believe we can draw better lines than a zip code. And before we create confusion — on one side of the street you’re open, on the other side of the street you’re closed — let’s get the right template, then we’ll take those actions.”
Cuomo reiterated his regular complaint of poor enforcement by New York City officials and said that new steps will be taken to make sure that the existing rules are obeyed.
“The state is going to take over the enforcement oversight in all the hot spot clusters,” he said. “Local governments will need to provide us with personnel, but the state will take over the enforcement with the local personnel. I do not have enough state personnel to supplement every local police department in the state.”
And Cuomo also highlighted large religious gatherings as an area of particular concern. He’s not going to impose any new regulations on them yet, but raised the possibility that they could be banned if enforcement remains lax.
“If we’re going to keep religious institutions open, it can only be with two conditions,” he said. “One, the community must agree , whether it’s the Jewish community, whether we’re talking about Black churches, whether we’re talking about Roman Catholic churches, the religious community has to agree to the rules.”
The governor said he’ll be meeting with ultra-Orthodox leaders on Tuesday: “I want to have that conversation myself … if you do not agree to enforce the rules, then we’ll close the institutions down. I am prepared to do that.”