New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday he planned to reimpose restrictions on nine neighborhoods as COVID-19 cases rise in parts of the city, including in areas with large Orthodox Jewish populations, AFP reports.
The proposal, which must be approved by state Governor Andrew Cuomo, marks a major setback for New York City since it was hit hard in March by the coronavirus. The city has lost almost 24,000 people to the virus.
"Today, unfortunately, is not a day for celebration," de Blasio said, announcing he would ask to close nonessential businesses and all schools in nine neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens.
If approved by the governor, who has not yet weighed in, the new restrictions would be the first step back toward lockdown in the city.
Several of the nine neighborhoods in de Blasio’s announcement have large populations of Orthodox Jews, where the virus has been spreading rapidly in recent weeks.
The nine neighborhoods targeted by the mayor have seen the rate at which people are testing positive for the virus remain above three percent for the past seven days, despite authorities intervening to encourage mask-wearing and other safety practices, according to AFP.
De Blasio said he intended to "rewind" the city's reopening in the worst-affected areas. The city is also monitoring 11 additional ZIP codes that de Blasio described as of "real concern."
De Blasio has faced previously criticism for his handling of the virus response among the city's Jewish residents.
In April, de Blasio caused an uproar when he threatened "the Jewish community" with summons and arrest after a large crowd of Hasidic Jews gathered for a rabbi's funeral in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood.
The Mayor later apologized to the Jewish community and said, "I regret if the way I said it in any way gave people the feeling that they were being treated the wrong way.”
"It was said with love, but it was tough love," de Blasio added. He also said, "Members of the Jewish community were putting each other in danger and putting our police officers in danger."
In a subsequent conference call with Orthodox Jewish media outlets, the Mayor said he is not planning to delete the initial tweet which caused the uproar, arguing that doing so would turn the saga into “a new story”.
He added, however, that he is open to discussing what to do and expressed his regrets on the wording of the tweet.
Sunday’s announcement came several days after residents of Orthodox Jewish areas of New York said they feel attacked or insulted, accusing authorities of creating a stigma based on their faith.