Five Orthodox Jewish institutions in New York City were fined $15,000 for alleged violations of the health code amid the coronavirus pandemic for having more than 10 people inside their religious facilities, according to reports.
The religious spaces in Borough Park, the site of protests last week, weren’t shut down because police don’t have the authority.
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New restrictions temporarily limit the size of religious gatherings in the COVID-19 hot spots. The restrictions limit attendance at all houses of worship to 25% capacity, or a maximum of 10 people.
Six coronavirus clusters have cropped up in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Broome, Orange and Rockland counties. The state has closed schools and nonessential businesses in those areas and limited gatherings.
The number of New Yorkers hospitalized with the coronavirus continues to rise, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday, as authorities heightened their focus on banning mass gatherings in COVID-19 hot spots.
Cuomo announced that 826 people were hospitalized with the virus — the highest number since July 15. State officials said eight New Yorkers died of the coronavirus on Friday.
Still, the governor insisted the “numbers remain good news,” noting that public health officials traced 18% of positive tests this week to a so-called “Red Zone” that’s home to 2.8% of the state population.
The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn sued the state in federal court last week, saying Cuomo’s plan would effectively force over two dozen of its churches to close their doors even though they “have been reopened for months in strict adherence to all medical and governmental guidance without any COVID-related incidents whatsoever.”
U.S. District Judge Eric Komitee called the case a “difficult decision” but sided with Cuomo in denying the church’s request for a temporary restraining order. The government, he ruled late Friday, “is afforded wide latitude in managing the spread of deadly diseases under the Supreme Court’s precedent.”
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The ruling followed a similar decision Friday by another judge in the Eastern District of New York who refused to block Cuomo’s plan. That ruling followed an emergency hearing in a lawsuit brought by rabbis and synagogues who said the restrictions were unconstitutional and sought to have enforcement delayed until after the Jewish holy days.
A different tune earlier this year though when a federal judge said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Letitia James, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio “exceeded” their executive limits by limiting worship services and condoning mass protests as the state continues to reopen from coronavirus restrictions.
“Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio could have just as easily discouraged protests, short of condemning their message, in the name of public health and exercised discretion to suspend enforcement for public safety reasons instead of encouraging what they knew was a flagrant disregard of the outdoor limits and social distancing rules,” the judge said. “They could have also been silent. But by acting as they did, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio sent a clear message that mass protests are deserving of preferential treatment.”
Thomas More Society Special Counsel Christopher Ferrara celebrated the decision and called Cuomo’s executive orders a “sham” that “went right out the window as soon as he and Mayor de Blasio saw a mass protest movement they favored taking to the streets by the thousands.”
“Suddenly, the limit on ‘mass gatherings’ was no longer necessary to ‘save lives,’” Ferrara said in a statement to Fox News. “Yet they were continuing to ban high school graduations and other outdoor gatherings exceeding a mere 25 people.”