A woman and a group of young children cross a street in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (The Associated Press)
New York – Alarmed by an increase in coronavirus cases in a few neighborhoods with Orthodox Jewish populations, New York City officials will begin issuing fines for people who refuse to wear protective masks in those areas, the Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The local president said he was sending teams of hundreds of workers and contact tracers to nine zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens that have seen a rise in infections in hopes of avoiding tougher measures.
Workers will pass out masks, but will also insist that people wear them if they are in a place where they could be within two meters (about 6 feet) of others.
“Anyone who refuses to wear a face covering will be informed that if they don't wear it, they will be fined, and anyone who refuses will be fined. That will be done actively, ”de Blasio declared.
The maximum fine will be $ 1,000. “We don't want to fine people. If we have to, we will, ”he said.
The mayor warned he could order more measures, including shutting down nonessential businesses and banning congregations if things don't improve. Private schools and daycare centers will be closed if people refuse to comply with the guidelines for the virus, he said.
“It is a situation at the moment that is very serious and we have to consider all the options,” he said.
The nine ZIP codes account for 25% of the city's positive test results for the virus in the past two weeks, despite collectively accounting for just 7% of the population, said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshy.
The city's public schools are welcoming some elementary students into classrooms for the first time since March. The mayor said there is no evidence so far that the increase in cases is affecting schools in areas where rates are rising, because communities that are seeing high rates of infections are not sending their children to school.