New York City warns of new coronavirus outbreaks in Orthodox neighborhoods

New York City health officials see rise of positive tests in in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods as Yom Kippur approaches.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

New York City health officials issued a warning that new clusters of coronavirus infections are emerging in several city neighborhoods that are home to high concentrations of Orthodox Jews, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Increases were noted in areas of Brooklyn and Queens where numbers had previously declined over the summer.

“We are concerned about how Covid-19 may be affecting Orthodox communities — in these neighborhoods and beyond — and we will continue working with partners, providers and residents throughout the city to ensure that health guidance is followed, which is critical to suppressing the pandemic,” said Health Department spokesman Patrick Gallahue.

The positive test rate for three predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn was 4.7 percent, more than double the highest rate in other areas of the city, the report said.

“We have observed heightened rates of COVID-19 in many neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish populations,” city health commissioner David Chokshi wrote in an e-mail to Orthodox Jewish news outlets.

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News of the increase comes a week before Jews traditionally pack synagogues for Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

Massive outbreaks earlier this year that killed over 700 members of the Jewish community were in many cases traced back to gatherings at synagogues.

Many in the Jewish community had relaxed their guard as infection rates dropped over the summer and were no longer wearing masks or following social distance guidelines, the report said.

“This situation will require further action if noncompliance with safety precautions is observed,” a Health Department alert said, pointing to “several COVID-19 signals in Brooklyn and Queens that are cause for significant concern,” but not naming any groups or specific neighborhoods.

City and health officials have had a fractious relationship with the Orthodox communities after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo both singled out the Jewish community over holding large public funerals and private weddings where social distancing rules were not observed, despite the high death toll the community had suffered.