New York State health officials have taken extraordinary steps to close an ultra-Orthodox wedding scheduled for Monday that could have brought up to 10,000 guests to Brooklyn, near one of New York’s coronavirus hotspots.
The state health commissioner intervened personally on Friday to have the sheriff’s deputies delivered to the Hasidic synagogue, warning that he must follow health protocols, including limiting meetings to fewer than 50 people.
On Sunday the synagogue, the Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar, accused state officials of “unjustified attacks”
The marriage will continue, the synagogue said, but will be limited to a smaller group of family members. “It is sad that no one verified our plans before attacking us,” Chaim Jacobowitz, secretary of the congregation, said in a statement.
State commissioner for health, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, took the rare step of personally issuing what is known as a Section 16 order, which can result in a $ 10,000 daily fine if violated. The state issued dozens of Section 16 orders during the pandemic.
Dr. Zucker moved swiftly in releasing him due to concerns that the state’s normal first line of action, which includes a quit and desist letter and a hearing, would be too late to prevent the grand marriage, according to one person. he knew the Actions state. State officials got a wedding invitation late last week and confirmed that some guests would be arriving there from state hotspots.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday said a large wedding was too risky and could have resulted in a so-called superspreader event. State officials said they determined that the wedding, which was supposed to take place in Williamsburg, could have had up to 10,000 people in attendance.
“My suggestion: plan a small wedding this year,” Cuomo said at a press conference on Sunday. “Next year, happy marriage. Invite me and I will come. “
The incident highlighted the raging tensions between the governor and the Hasidic community as state health officials try to control the rising coronavirus cases in some neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. and in the counties north of New York City.
Some Orthodox voices, including a growing faction of raucous young men, they accused the government of targeting them because of their faith and religious life. Earlier this month, the governor ordered new closure restrictions in areas where cases were escalating.
Orthodox Jewish leaders have announced a large community prayer scheduled for Tuesday in response to the marriage closure and wider restrictions. The event, which will take place via telephone, is not a protest, the leaders said.
Mr Cuomo said on Sunday that the state’s efforts to control outbreaks were successful in reducing the positivity rate in the targeted neighborhoods, which he had divided into zones. As of Saturday, the state’s overall infection rate was 1.08 percent, the governor said, significantly lower than other states. But the rate is 3.19 percent in areas with the highest infection rates, or “red zones,” which include neighborhoods near Williamsburg. The synagogue itself is not located in a hot spot.
“We are so aggressive every time we see the virus appear – we run and hit it,” the governor said of the state’s strategy to control outbreaks. “It’s tiring but it’s effective.”
A number of factors – including distrust of scientific messages and secular authority, a dedication to common life and dense living conditions – have fueled the rise of the ultra-Orthodox community within the city.
While New York State has one of the lowest rates of new cases, health officials are concerned about another spike in the colder months, when people mostly stay indoors and can more easily spread the virus in confined spaces. Mr. Cuomo noted on Sunday that even relatively small events, such as a Sweet 16 party held on Long Island last month, can trigger a contagious outbreak.
The birthday party had more than 80 guests – over the maximum of 50 people – and resulted in at least 37 cases and many more people forced into quarantine.
In a similar incident, the sheriff’s office in New York City said early Sunday morning, MPs dissolved an illegal party of more than 215 people at a banquet hall in the Ozone Park area of Queens. Participants were dancing and not social distancing or wearing masks, authorities said.
Officials announced another seven coronavirus-related deaths statewide on Sunday, bringing the total to more than 26,440 people.
“At one point we had the worst problem in the world,” Cuomo said. “The numbers are all moving in the right direction.”
Liam Stack contributed to the reporting.