Cuomo trumps de Blasio on COVID-19 hotspots in NYC, state to take over mask enforcement

Governor Andrew Cuomo at his press conference in Manhattan on Oct. 5
Photo by Mark Hallum

A day after Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined a plan to combat COVID-19 spread in nine hotspots in Brooklyn and Queens, Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped in on Tuesday to take over much of the effort.

Cuomo announced at his Manhattan office on Oct. 5 that his administration would assert control over enforcement duties of mask and social distancing compliance in for the hotspots in New York City — utilizing city resources to make it possible.

Claiming a lackluster effort on the part of the de Blasio administration to issue summonses in the past, Cuomo said there would be an aggressive effort to close not only schools but also religious institutions. Whereas de Blasio wanted to close schools in the hot spots on Wednesday, Cuomo overruled him — and ordered them closed Tuesday.

“There is no person in the state of New York who needs you to tell them at this point, you have to wear a mask… There’s no need for [more] public education,” Cuomo said. “The state is going to take over the enforcement oversight in all the hotspot clusters. Local governments will need to provide us personnel but the state will take over enforcement.”

According to Cuomo, his state police force is only a fraction of what NYPD is, about 5,000 officers to 35,000.

And autumn will be the critical season for New Yorkers to buckle down again, he said as the colder months have proven to be the enemy as countries across the globe face an increase in COVID-19 cases. New York, however, is the outlier of these trajectories despite the continued battle in hotspots across the city.

The state calculates a 5.5% infection rates in the 20 zip codes, which is the positivity rate for most states, but statewide infection rate is at 1.01% without these hotspots excluded in the math the and 1.22% with those communities included.

Testing, data analysis and enforcement were the three benchmarks of stopping the spread as outlined by Cuomo in Monday’s presser.

De Blasio announcing Sunday that the zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens will need to go back on pause orders, the city’s proposal will not close religious institution despite these gatherings being a “super spreader” in Cuomo’s eyes.

According to the governor, religious institutions will need to first agree with the rules of social distancing, large gatherings and mask, in other words be a “partner” in preventing the spread. If they cannot agree to the governor’s demands, Cuomo will close the institutions down, he said.

New York City only did 26 enforcement actions on bars and restaurants before the state task force took over on over 1,000 reported violations, something Cuomo says is not effective. The state itself issued 1,200 violations leading Cuomo to the conclusion that his more aggressive methods of stopping the spread generate better results.

Cuomo believes that reversing course on allowing restaurants and bars to operate in these hotspots may not be necessary, but will decide in the near future alongside criteria for opening up these hotspots. The administration will also be reevaluating how the hotspots are defined as the zip code model does not take into account spillover of cases.

De Blasio said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that his administration and Cuomo’s office are having “an ongoing conversation” about the matter.

The state will require the city to appoint individuals from agencies involved in enforcing the regulations in these hotspots and the task force itself will be answerable to the state.

The mayor, however, charged that it wasn’t accurate to describe Cuomo’s action as a state takeover of enforcement.

“The city personnel work for the city, but we agree with close coordination with the state,” de Blasio said.

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