New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has threatened to fine people $15,000 if they violate a ban on mass gatherings and $1,000 for those refusing to wear masks in the hotspot neighborhoods being shutdown from tomorrow due to rising COVID-19 rates.
His threat came a day after new rules were announced by the state that will affect residents living in parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
The strict new restrictions are being placed on businesses, houses of worship and schools in various neighborhoods that are largely Orthodox Jewish strongholds from Thursday.
During his daily press briefing on Wednesday, de Blasio threatened to dish out heavy fines: $15,000 for violation of mass gatherings and $1,000 for no masks.
His threats came after hundreds of furious Orthodox Jews protested in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park a night earlier over the new restrictions that they argue unfairly target them.
Footage from the protest showed members of the group setting fire to a pile of masks in the middle of the street.
‘We are dealing with a health emergency. The state has laid down very clear rules. Everyone must follow those rules. The NYPD will be enforcing those rules,’ de Blasio said.
When asked about the protests in Brooklyn, de Blasio said: ‘There is a place for peaceful protest. There will be no tolerance for assaults, for damage to property, for setting fires.
‘I understand that there are people who disagree with this plan and it is a democracy – we appreciate there is always going to be disagreements.
‘But it’s crucial that those who disagree still respect that the state and city have made a decision for the health and safety of all.’
Asked about concerns from the Orthodox Jewish community that they are being unfairly targeted, de Blasio said: ‘This is about protecting everyone’s lives.
‘This is about all New Yorkers. When you look at the communities in Brooklyn and Queens, it’s lots of different kinds of people. Remember, we’re talking about two of the most diverse places on Earth.
‘Within these areas are many kinds of people, and we want to protect everyone. This is based on data and science.’
Under the new rules laid out by Gov Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, non-essential businesses and schools are being forced to close and there are now bans on religious gatherings of more than 10 people in the hot spot neighborhoods where cases are increasing.
Mass gatherings in those neighborhoods are also now banned.
Despite the rules coming into affect no later than the end of the week, the city is still working with state officials to determine exactly what level of restrictions are being placed on each neighborhood.
The hotspots are roughly centered around most of the nine zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens where positive test rates are surging as high as eight percent.
State officials, however, are not defining the restrictions based solely on zip codes.
De Blasio said the city is working on a tool so people can search by address to determine what, if any, cluster zone they reside in.
In the hearts of the hot spots – color-coded as red zones – schools would close to in-person learning, only essential businesses could remain open, houses of worship would be limited to no more than 10 people, and restaurants could offer only take-out and delivery.
Those areas would be surrounded by orange-coded zones where schools also would be remote-only, and ‘high-risk’ non-essential enterprises – such as gyms and personal-care businesses – would be closed. Religious institutions would be restricted to 25 people, and restaurants would be allowed limited outdoor dining.
A wider ‘yellow’ caution zone would have schools and businesses open, and restrictions would be lighter than in other zones.
The new rules, which will be in place for at least two weeks, will go into affect as early as Wednesday but no later than Friday.
The nine hotspot zipcodes in New York City have accounted for more than 25 percent of all new infections in the city over the past two weeks while representing just 7 percent of the population.
The citywide positive infection rate is currently, on a seven day average, 1.74 percent.