The coronavirus hotspot in the Brooklyn neighborhoods that are home to large communities of Orthodox Jews shifted from a “red” to an “orange” zone on Tuesday, in recognition of the progress made in beating back the pandemic — but many local Jewish leaders insisted that more assistance was needed to deal with the grave economic impact of the shutdown.
New York City Councilman Chaim Deutsch told Yeshiva World News that he had spoken with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, and was informed that non-essential businesses could largely reopen. The list did not include businesses deemed “high risk” for COVID-19 transmission, such as gyms and nail salons.
As a result of the change, synagogues can now reopen with a restriction on 25 persons at each service. Restaurants can only serve customers at outside tables.
New York State Senator Simcha Felder expressed relief at the change, which followed several weeks of bitter recriminations between the city authorities and Jewish leaders angered by an alleged disproportionate focus on social distancing in the Orthodox community while permitting political rallies and other street gatherings elsewhere in the city.
“I am thankful that Governor Cuomo finally heard us and agreed that today is the day to end to the madness and finally downgrade Brooklyn’s red zone,” Felder told Yeshiva World News. “This is so important for small business owners who have been suffocating under this policy. I cannot overstate the toll taken by these shut downs, but today it ends. Please, put on your masks and go support them.”
New York Assemblyman Simcha Eisenstein similarly urged residents to revive the local economy.
“Small business owners don’t deserve the hardships they have gone through,” he tweeted. “Let’s help them out, patronize their stores!”
Cuomo separately emphasized that the shift from red to orange had vindicated his approach.
“Brooklyn was quite a fuss when we made it a red zone,” Cuomo said. “People didn’t like the restrictions, but it worked.”