The city is prepared to enforce COVID restrictions and closures of non-essential businesses in COVID-19 hot spots beginning Wednesday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during an afternoon press conference, shortly after Governor Andrew Cuomo approved the closure of roughly 300 public and private schools.
On Sunday, Mayor de Blasio proposed a plan to close all non-essential businesses, schools and daycare centers in the city’s nine zip codes experiences upticks in the virus on Wednesday pending state approval. On Monday morning, Governor Cuomo approved the closure of schools and daycares in Brooklyn and Queens COVID hot spots but bumped up the closures by a day.
The announcement set off a back-and-forth between the two elected officials who have a longstanding division.
Cuomo did not specify how long schools would remain closed, while de Blasio previously suggested at least two weeks, and said that the state still had not determined reopening criteria.
Cuomo added that he could not approve non-essential business closures since the de Blasio administration used city zip codes to identify hot spot areas which could cause confusion and parse sections where there are no infections.
De Blasio argued that ZIP codes were the best available measurements the city had to make such a decision.
“Businesses will be really affected by the lines you draw, I believe we can draw better lines than a ZIP code…let’s get the right template and then we’ll take those actions,” Cuomo told reporters.
The more pressing problem, Cuomo suggested, were houses of worship and schools, claiming that small local businesses were not large spreaders of the virus.
The governor also criticized local governments for not properly enforcing state mask-wearing guidelines, and added that the state would take over mask and social distancing enforcement in Brooklyn and Queens cluster spots.
“Warnings are not enforcement. Put a mask on, alright, we’ll ticket you, is not enforcement… we are past that,” Cuomo said. “Everybody knows the rules.” Last week, de Blasio said that the city would issue fines of up to $1,000 to New Yorkers who refuse to wear cloth face coverings.
De Blasio responded to the governor’s announcement at a press conference which was scheduled to begin at 1:15 p.m. and finally started over an hour later.
“The proposal I put on the table is the basis of the discussion, nine zip codes, closed all non-essential businesses. The governor’s team is considering if they have alterations they want to make to that geography or to the approach but until we hear otherwise, our plan is to move ahead with enforcement in those nine zip codes,” de Blasio said. “We will continue to work with the state to get a final resolution.”
After being pressed by reporters, de Blasio eventually admitted that closing businesses was ultimately the state’s decision and the city would only prepare to enforce the state’s decision.
“If the State wants to modify that in some way, obviously, that’s the state’s ultimate decision button, unless they come back with a specific modification, we’re preparing to act as early as Wednesday morning, we need some plan ready to go, and that’s the plan we have,” de Blasio said.
Again, the city will not be closing businesses on Wednesday. It will only be prepared to enforce closures and COVID restrictions.
On Tuesday, roughly 100 public schools and 200 private schools will shutter their doors for an unclear amount of time.
The majority of the areas experiencing upticks in the virus are in Southern Brooklyn and encompass Borough Park (11219), Gravesend/Homecrest (11223), Midwood ( 11230), Bensonhurst/Mapleton (11204), Flatlands/Midwood( 11210) and Gerritsen Beach/Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay (11229). The remaining three hot spot zip codes are Far Rockaway/Edgere ( 11691), Kew Gardens ( 11415) and Kew Gardens Hills/Pomonok (11367) in Queens.