New York’s Rockland County, which became one of the nation’s largest coronavirus hot spots early in the pandemic, is witnessing a worrisome new surge in infections.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced Monday that two villages in the county, Spring Valley and Monsey, had reported positivity rates of 30 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Both also top a list of 10 Zip codes that represent under 3 percent of the state’s population but account for a quarter of its active cases, according to Gothamist. Both are home to a large ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, and the rise in cases comes as several ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in New York City are also witnessing an uptick in cases.
Though New York’s overall positivity rate remains relatively low at 1.5 percent, that number nonetheless represents a slight increase from the summer months, prompting fears of a second wave in the hard-hit city.
Enforcing public health restrictions in New York’s ultra-Orthodox enclaves has proved challenging for authorities who risk being accused of anti-Semitism if they single out a specific group. In April, when Rockland County had the state’s highest rate of coronavirus infections, some local officials pointed to large funerals and other religious gatherings, suggesting that lack of compliance with social distancing regulations was to blame. Those remarks were met with backlash, and Cuomo was circumspect on Monday when asked about the fact that the new surge appears to again be centered in Orthodox communities.
“I said to last week that these rules apply to all religious gatherings and religious celebrations,” Cuomo said. “Public health is public health.”
Rockland County Executive Ed Day was less guarded on Friday, telling News 12: “This is something that really goes back to the way a religious group practices. It’s communal in nature and now it’s a matter of getting them to understand that and getting all these folks to understand what they need to do to minimize the spread.”