NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced public and private schools in nine problematic ZIP codes in New York City will close on Tuesday.
The nine ZIP codes are located in Brooklyn and Queens and all have a high level of coronavirus positivity rates. They are: 11691, 11219, 11223, 11230, 11204, 11210, 11229, 11415 and 11367.
On Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the ZIP codes have seen positive rates above 3% for seven consecutive days. He previously said that if infection rates climbed above 3%, schools would be forced to close.
“My number one concern has always been schools,” Cuomo said at his Monday briefing, adding that they are locations where the virus can spread rapidly.
Schools in Rockland and Orange counties, where there are other coronavirus outbreaks, will remain untouched for now. However, the governor will be speaking with community leaders in all hot spots to ensure they are taking the proper measures to stop the spread of the virus.
Religious institutions within the problematic zones will also remain open for now, but they must adhere to strict guidelines or risk being shut down.
“This cannot happen again. If you do not agree to enforce rules, we will close institutions down. I am prepared to do that,” the governor said.
Cuomo says he needs more data on the schools in the hot spot ZIP codes around New York City, and noted the decision to close schools was done in conjunction with Mayor de Blasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Gov. Cuomo, who has stressed the need for local governments to step up coronavirus enforcement, also announced Monday that the state will take over the role. He said local governments will need to provide the state with personnel, but the state Department of Health will be taking over enforcement of coronavirus guidelines in problematic areas.
Meanwhile, the state is also looking for a better way to identify coronavirus hot spots rather than using ZIP codes.
“You need a better template than a ZIP code, a ZIP code is not the best definition of the applicable zone, you have information beyond the ZIP code level, you have addresses, you have census track data, so if you have to circumscribe an area, make sure you have the right boundaries, and before you make a determination about essential businesses or not, make sure you have the right geographic area, because you will be closing businesses and if you don’t do it right, it’ll just be arbitrary and capricious and then they’ll bring you into court,” the governor told reporters.
New York State officials have yet to elaborate on how they would label the areas of concern.
For now, the state will use ZIP codes to close schools on Tuesday. Cuomo said when the state comes up with a different template, if more schools need to be closed, they will be,
The governor said he will be speaking with religious leaders across the state in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
In a briefing shortly after Cuomo’s announcement, Mayor de Blasio said he was in full support of the rollbacks.
“It’s time to move forward and fight back; because a rewind, a pause is all part of fighting back against the disease. It’s what worked for us before and it will work for us again,” he said.
The mayor notes that New York City has created a plan to address the clusters and is working with the state to move forward.
“We’ve laid out the foundation for how to stop this spread dead in its tracks,” de Blasio said.
In addition to school closures, de Blasio said the city also created a plan for shutting down non-essential businesses in those areas. However, the mayor’s office is still working with the governor to finalize those plans.
For now, those non-essential businesses may remain open.
The mayor notes that the plan for non-essential businesses is to enhance enforcement measures by Wednesday.
“The state has a role to play. The city has a role to play.
But, the biggest role will be played by all of you, by everyday New Yorkers in these nine ZIP codes and beyond,” he said.
De Blasio stressed that all New Yorkers must wear masks, avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing and good hygiene.
He said if COVID rules are followed, New Yorkers can stop the virus from escalating and prevent further closures.
In addition to the nine problematic ZIP codes in the city, Mayor de Blasio added that the city is also keeping an eye on 11 other areas of concern. On Monday, Forest Hills, ZIP code 11375, was added to the city’s watch list with a current 14-day positivity rate of 1.95%.