NYC DOH empowers agencies to shut businesses dodging COVID-19 rules
New York health commissioner Dave Chokshi on Thursday vested city agencies with the authority to shutter businesses that repeatedly flout coronavirus regulations, as an eleventh neighborhood crossed the troubling three-percent positivity rate threshold.
The Department of Health announced the move hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed more rigorous enforcement in an effort to contain the pandemic, but a City Hall spokesman said there were no closures made Thursday.
Among the agencies specifically empowered in the order are the NYPD, FDNY, Sheriff’s Office and Department of Buildings.
“This raises the temperature,” said a city official, speaking on condition of anonymity about why the order was issued now. “This is about putting some muscle behind the enforcement.
“This makes it very clear these rules must be followed and if they’re not followed, you’ll be shut down.”
The de Blasio administration followed the new order up with a late Thursday briefing to elected officials in Brooklyn and Queens, which have been the epicenters of the latest COVID-crisis.
Health officials described the outbreak in starker terms than Mayor de Blasio uses during his morning press conferences and expressed particular concern about ‘Southern Brooklyn’ cluster — which now stretches from Brighton Beach to eastern Crown Heights.
There are also outbreaks centered in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, Central Queens and in Far Rockaway. Many of the neighborhoods where positive test rates have surged are hubs for the city’s Hasidic Jewish community, with which the city has struggled in its outreach efforts.
“Dr. Long” — Ted Long, the head of the city’s Test and Trace program — “was very clear that this is very serious,” said one person who participated in the briefing. “This isn’t just a couple of zip codes in southern Brooklyn anymore. It’s the entire borough.”
Long told the meeting, according to the attendee, that “this is a very serious situation and I don’t want to go back to March.”
A second person who attended the half-hour long briefing offered a similar description.
“They’re definitely worried, but they didn’t really have answers as to how it’s happening,” the person told The Post, adding that health officials described the city’s situation as “precarious.”
“They haven’t been this worried since April,” the person added.
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