N.Y.C. to Reinstate Lockdown Restrictions in Orthodox Jewish COVID-19 Hotspots

Danielle Ziri
Danielle Ziri
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Medical workers attend to an ambulance gurney outside of Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park, September 28, 2020
Medical workers attend to an ambulance gurney outside of Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park, September 28, 2020 Credit: Spencer Platt - AFP
Danielle Ziri
Danielle Ziri

NEW YORK – Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday the city will “rewind” to previous lockdown restrictions in nine zip codes considered COVID-19 hot spots in Brooklyn and Queens, including many Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, starting Wednesday. 

Among the neighborhoods of concern are areas with large Orthodox Jewish populations, including Borough Park and Midwood in Brooklyn. According to the city, the coronavirus positivity rate in these areas has exceeded three percent for seven or more consecutive days. In Borough part, 8.31 percent of coronavirus tests came back positive – the highest of any neighborhood.

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During his Sunday press briefing, de Blasio said “truly extensive” outreach efforts were made in these neighborhoods, but “in the end were not enough to turn around this situation.”

Under the new restrictions, which still need to be approved by New York State, non-essential businesses, as well as private and public schools will be closing on Wednesday until further notice. Restaurants will also be closed and allowed to operate for pick-up or delivery only. The mayor said the reversal gives him “no joy” but is necessary to “stop the spread of the coronavirus in these communities and beyond.”

“The goal here is to prevent the spread and the goal here is to stop something bigger from happening right now,” he said. “It’s something that we believe is necessary to keep this city from going back to where we were months ago.”

Over the past weeks, city health officials have expressed concerns about the spike in COVID-19 cases in Brooklyn neighborhoods with a significant Orthodox population. At the state level too, Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods are suffering a surge in coronavirus patients, particularly in Rockland and Orange counties.

But Jewish community leaders in these areas have vocally criticized authorities for not meaningfully collaborating with local groups. “The community feels that the state and city have failed to reach out in the past six months, and are running to the media before even trying to understand the complex situation and come to an agreement with the community, [where] it is traditionally harder to follow social distancing orders," Jacob Kornbluh, a reporter for the website Jewish Insider and a member of the community in Borough Park, Brooklyn, told Haaretz last week. 

The CEO of the Borough Park Jewish Community Council, Avi Greenstein, echoed Kornbluh, saying that information had been “shared as a press release to the press and has not been shared with community leaders.” He added that “Unfortunately, the city feels that they have to threaten to close down schools and close down the community and small businesses as opposed to working on effective strategies. It’s very hurtful.”

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