By: Ilana Siyance
On Sunday, in a phone call with reporters, Governor Andrew Cuomo used Hebrew quotes to implore Orthodox Jewish New Yorkers, residing in COVID-19 hot spots, to refrain from large gatherings, as per the Jerusalem Post.
“I say to my friends in the Hasidic community: The Hebrew faith teaches us pikuach nefesh, which means ‘save a life,’ and under the Hebrew teachings… participation in a religious ceremony can be excused for a matter of health and life and safety,” he said. The comments came after both the city and state have been working to contain an uptick in COVID cases in parts of Brooklyn and Queens with a heavy Orthodox Jewish population. Last week, the state ordered a halt to in-person schooling, shuttered nonessential businesses and synagogue attendance in “red zones” where the coronavirus positivity rate has held above 3 percent for seven straight days. This seeming focus on the Jewish community prompted a negative reaction, including protests, as well as lawsuits alleging that the orders are unconstitutional. On Tuesday night, hundreds of members of the Borough Park Orthodox community filled the streets to protest the new restrictions which they say unfairly target and blame their communities.
Last week, the governor had taken a tough approach using harsher words, but he is now seemingly taking a softer approach and tone as of Sunday. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Cuomo said, citing the Book of Leviticus. “The point here is to save a life and not to endanger others.”
The COVID infection rate is 5.7% in the hot spots, according to Cuomo. Statewide, the rate is still 0.84% excluding those cluster sites, he said. As per the JPost, he added that five New Yorkers died Saturday, bringing the state’s overall official death toll to 25,574, which is still the highest in the nation.
Gov. Cuomo also reiterated his criticism of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of the new outbreak. When “people see that a law isn’t enforced, they dismiss the law,” said Cuomo, though this time he refrained from mentioning de Blasio by name. Last week, Mayor de Blasio announced that the city would start issuing hefty fines to people who go against the COVID-19 emergency protocols such as hosting large gatherings or refusing to wear facial masks. The Mayor’s office did not immediately answer questions relating to how many fines have been doled out since Wednesday’s announcement.