Responding to a surge in coronavirus cases in Orange and Rockland counties, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is closing schools in those counties and implementing new rules for what he calls “red zones.”
“Houses of worship will be 25% capacity, up to 10 people maximum,” Cuomo said on Tuesday. “So if it’s a church, or a mosque, or a temple there will be a maximum of 25% capacity or 10 people. No mass gatherings. Only essential businesses open. Only take-out dining. And schools are closed.”
In orange zones, schools are closed, houses of worship are limited to 33% capacity with a max of 25 people and other gatherings are limited to 10. Personal care businesses and gyms are being told to close and no indoor dining is allowed.
In yellow, or precautionary zones, houses of worship are limited to 50% capacity. Cuomo says sponsors of mass gatherings could be fined $15,000.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day applauded Cuomo's move.
"He clearly heard the concerns expressed by myself and other County Executives during our daily Control Room calls," Day said in a statement. "We in Rockland County government stand ready to support these actions as we are able. The restrictions he announced are measured and clearly focused on the areas where this disease is spreading. These areas will be minimal in size but logical in scope. I have already reached out to local municipalities, police departments and the Sheriff’s Office to ask for their support of these efforts."
New York state has already closed down schools for two weeks in areas of New York City where COVID-19 cases have spiked. Cuomo has criticized schools in those areas for not consistently testing students and staff.
New York State United Teachers Union President Andy Pallotta released the following statement Tuesday after Cuomo announced the closures.
“Erring on the side of caution means closing school buildings when there is serious risk of spreading COVID-19, and we believe the state is taking the right steps by seeking to close schools in these hotspots," Pallotta said. "At the same time, we are seeking additional details on the state’s testing plan for students and staff in an in-person setting in the outlying areas of these hotspots. These outbreaks have underscored just how real the threat of this virus still is. Protecting the health and safety of students, staff and families must continue to be the top priority as the school year continues.”