Authorities cracked down on some of the city’s coronavirus hotspots this weekend, issuing more than 60 summons and tens of thousands of dollars in fines to people, businesses and places of worship who have not followed recently imposed restrictions on rallies or masks and social – distancing requirements.
Among those issued in a citation from the New York City sheriff were a restaurant and at least five places of worship in the city’s “red zones”, where coronavirus infection rates are the highest. Each of these locations received a summons that could result in fines of up to $ 1
In total, officials issued 62 tickets and over $ 150,000 in fines during the first weekend that the new restrictions were in effect. the New York City government Twitter account said Sunday.
The city is grappling with its most acute pandemic crisis since the virus first hit the five boroughs in March. Since mid-August, city and state officials say large rallies and slow social distancing have caused a surge of new cases in the pockets of Brooklyn and Queens, many of them in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. The spike prompted Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to issue new restrictions on large gatherings and non-essential business activities in parts of the city.
The moment has thrown an already anxious city in crisis, particularly as doctors, experts and health officials express growing concern about a second wave of the virus this winter. He also highlighted the challenges city officials will face as they try to eliminate emerging hot spots in small communities before the virus can spread to the rest of the city.
One of the Orthodox Jewish men who led the protests against the restrictions, Heshy Tischler, was arrested Sunday night by the police department’s police warrant team, a police official said. Mr. Tischler, a radio personality, should be charged by inciting a riot and illegal detention in connection with an assault on a Jewish journalist, Jacob Kornbluh, during a protest last week, police said.
When Mr. Cuomo announced a new executive order imposing restrictions last week, some religious leaders expressed firm opposition as the number of cases continued to rise in the pockets of Brooklyn and Queens which are home to large populations of Orthodox Jews.
The Orthodox Jewish community was devastated by the coronavirus in the spring, when local officials and ultra-Orthodox news organizations said hundreds of people may have died, including beloved religious leaders.
The new restrictions are the most significant setback yet in the city’s recovery, undoing some of the successful reopening that much of New York has embraced since the first more restrictive days of this spring’s pandemic.
According to Mr. Cuomo’s executive order, in neighborhoods with the highest rates of infection – or “red zones” – places of worship are limited to 25% capacity or a maximum of 10 people. Elsewhere, where the rates are lower but still alarming, the “orange zones” are limited to 33% capacity and the “yellow zones” to 50%.
“I understand the desire to hold great religious ceremonies. I understand how important it is for their culture and their religion, ”Cuomo said in a phone call to reporters on Sunday. “I also understand that, in fact, it endangers human life.”
The governor urged rabbis and other Jewish leaders to encourage their faithful to stay home amid reports that many synagogues had openly defied the state order and held services in person. Jewish teaching, Mr. Cuomo said, allows religious ceremonies to be postponed for health and safety reasons.
“The virus is likely to spread,” he said.
While the positivity rate in the state’s 20 “red zone” neighborhoods was 5.7%, the positivity rate in the rest of New York State was less than 1%, with those clusters excluded.
Mr. Cuomo’s Tuesday’s order, which came during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and just before Simhat Torah, sparked an immediate reaction in the city’s Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, where religious leaders accused Mr. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio of targeting religious minorities.
A national Orthodox organization filed a lawsuit in a federal court challenging the constitutionality of the new rules. The protests took place in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood, where hundreds of protesters – most of them Orthodox men, most not wearing masks – burned masks on the street.
But on Friday, a federal court ruled that the new state rules could go ahead, citing the responsibility of officials to keep “all New Yorkers” safe.
“How can we ignore the irresistible interest of the state in protecting the health and life of all New Yorkers?” said judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto of the Brooklyn Federal District Court.
The Catholic diocese of Brooklyn has filed a separate lawsuit to oppose the new restrictions, which it believes would have forced several churches in the district to close. A judge in that case also ruled that the governor’s order could go ahead.
The sheriff’s office declined to say whether the places of worship it cited this weekend were churches, synagogues, mosques or other religious institutions.
The office also broke up an illegal rave in Cunningham Park, in Queens, where more than 110 people gathered and broke city regulations. The organizers of the event were cited and charged with violations of the health code, Sheriff Fucito said.
Sheriff Fucito, whose office is one of the few city agencies responsible for enforcing the new rules, said his agents have rarely sued individuals if they meet demands to wear masks or practice better social distancing.
“If they wear a mask, we don’t write a ticket for that,” he said. Most of the citations written by his office, he said, involve multiple violations or blatant disregard of city rules.
Protests among the Orthodox community seem to have subsided over the weekend, with no major demonstrations taking place.