Facing a worrying spike in cases in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, New York City health officials began carrying out emergency inspections at private religious schools on Friday and threatened to impose an extraordinary lockdown in those communities that would be the first major retreat by the city on reopening since the pandemic began.

Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office to enforce public health guidelines in several Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn, where residents often do not wear masks or engage in social distancing. But community leaders said residents have been resisting the guidelines because of hostility toward Mr. de Blasio and the growing influence of Mr. Trump, whose views on masks and the pandemic have been widely embraced.

The crackdown is occurring shortly before Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, which begins on Sunday night, and it was not immediately clear the impact that the measures might have on the ability of people to gather in synagogues. The Health Department said that if significant progress toward following guidelines did not occur by Monday, officials could issue fines, limit gatherings or force closings of businesses or schools.

“This may be the most precarious moment we are facing since we emerged from lockdown,” Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said at a news conference in Brooklyn.

Officials this week released statistics showing that the positivity rate in some Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods had grown to anywhere from 3 percent to 6 percent, significantly more than the city’s overall rate of between 1 percent and 2 percent. Officials are especially worried about the positivity rates in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Borough Park, Midwood and Gravesend, which they have referred to as the “Ocean Parkway Cluster.”

Mr. de Blasio said on Friday on the Brian Lehrer radio show that the city had closed four yeshivas over violations of social distancing rules. “This is an indicator of something we’ll be fighting for a little while here,” he said.

The uptick in these neighborhoods amounts to the first major virus challenge for the city after months of declining or flat numbers. The concern now is that if the outbreak spreads further in the Orthodox community, it could begin to take hold elsewhere, with even more serious consequences. If the city’s overall positivity rate hits 3 percent, that would trigger a new lockdown, including the closing of public schools.

Visits to Borough Park showed how the rules are often ignored. The outbreak devastated New York’s Orthodox Jewish community in March and April, but this week, there was hardly a face mask in sight, as if the pandemic had never happened.

NYTIMES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.