By Jonathan Allen, Maria Caspani
NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday agreed to New York City’s plan to close schools in nine coronavirus “hot spots” in Brooklyn and Queens, but said he was still discussing whether non-essential businesses should be shut down again in those areas.
The closing of both private and public schools in those areas will begin on Tuesday, Cuomo said, bringing forward the plan announced by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio by a day.
The nine neighborhoods, delineated using postal ZIP codes, have all seen coronavirus test positivity above 3% for seven days in a row.
“I am not going to recommend or allow any New York City family to send their child to a school that I wouldn’t send my child,” Cuomo said at a news conference on Monday.
He said the state would take over enforcement of social distancing rules from local authorities in the hot spots.
Cuomo and de Blasio have repeatedly squabbled over how to respond to the spread of COVID-19, and the two have not appeared together in public in many months.
Cuomo said he spoke by phone with the mayor earlier on Monday and that they discussed how best to target which businesses need to be closed down. “I believe we can draw better lines than a ZIP code,” Cuomo said.
In a separate news conference, delayed until after the governor had finished his, de Blasio said the city would continue its plan, announced on Sunday, to enforce the shutting down of non-essential businesses and both indoor and outdoor dining in the affected areas on Wednesday morning.
Although Cuomo criticized de Blasio’s decision to define neighborhoods using ZIP codes, he said he had not yet decided on what approach might be better. De Blasio said discussions with the state would continue until “a final resolution” was reached.
“The best way to ensure there is action is to put the proposal on the table publicly,” de Blasio said.
Cuomo said he was also concerned about similar rising coronavirus rates in Rockland and Orange counties north of New York City, and that he may consider closing schools there too.
Many of the affected neighborhoods include large, close-knit Orthodox Jewish communities. Cuomo plans to meet with community leaders again on Tuesday to seek their help with getting people to comply with the rules.
New York faced one of the nation’s earliest and most devastating outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in the spring, but has since managed to largely curtail its spread.
On Monday, 1.22% of coronavirus tests statewide were reported to be positive, including the hot spots, Cuomo said.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Maria Caspani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bill Berkrot and Sonya Hepinstall.