NEW YORK CITY, NY – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced on Monday that the state will start moving to shut down religious institutions that are violating the COVID-19 executive orders regarding health and safety. The governor said the shutdowns could begin as soon as Friday of this week.
“We have had religious gatherings that have been circulated on social media for weeks and action was not taken. There can be no surprise – the rules are only as good as their enforcement. Well we have COVID fatigue. We’re tired of wearing masks,” Cuomo said. “COVID isn’t tired. The virus isn’t tired. The virus – still energetic to strong enough to kill you. It’s no time to be fatigued. We don’t have the luxury of fatigue.”
Cuomo singled out Orthodox Jewish communities as being hot spots of new COVID-19 clusters.
“I spoke to members of the Orthodox Jewish community today. I spoke to the leaders myself this morning. We had a very good conversation. These rules will apply to all houses of worship. Many of these communities have a large Orthodox population,” he said. “I have been very close to the Orthodox community for many years. I understand the imposition this is going to place on them, and I said to them I need their cooperation. I need their partnership. They’re very cohesive communities.”
The governor said he does not want to enforce any shutdowns, but instead is looking for the community leaders to comply or be charged $15,000 fines for mass gatherings. In March, when Orthodox Jewish communities in Ocean County New Jersey saw high rates of infection, New Jersey Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano tried to impose a similar fine. That fine however was a fine against any of Governor Phil Murphy’s executive orders, not just large mass gatherings. That bill ultimately failed and never made it to a state legislator vote.
“We’re increasing the fines for sponsors of mass gatherings to $15,000. We are going to be providing the local governments with the maps that we did in their areas. We’ll be consulting with them. These were done specifically from the actual case numbers themselves,” Cuomo said. “If there’s some peculiarity, local governments have a comment, we’ll do that today. The rules can go into effect as soon as tomorrow, that’s up to the local government, but no later than Friday. If local government says we want time to get adjusted, fine. Today is Tuesday, get adjusted no later than Friday.”
Last night Orthodox Jewish residents in Brooklyn lit fires and protested Cuomo’s new directive in the streets.