New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday urged the Orthodox Jewish community to refrain from holding large religious gatherings, saying that the New York Police Department will “do what they need to do” to enforce his social distancing regulations, JTA reports.
“I made it clear yesterday that these social distancing regulations are not just please, they are regulations that you can be fined for,” Cuomo was quoted as having said.
“I understand religious gatherings, I understand the Jewish Orthodox community. I’m very close to them and I have been for many, many years. But now is not the time for large religious gatherings. We’ve paid this price already. We’ve learned this lesson. That was New Rochelle in Westchester,” he added.
New Rochelle, a New York City suburb, was placed in quarantine last month after COVID-19 spread through it in large part due to Purim services and parties.
A lawyer from a synagogue in New Rochelle was hospitalized with COVID-19 before being released late last month. Following that, some people who were friends or relatives of the lawyer tested positive for coronavirus. These included the rabbi of the synagogue.
Hundreds of Hasidic Jews attended a funeral on Sunday night for a local rabbi, taking over a street in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn to pay their respects. Police broke up the gathering using sirens and their public address system. No arrests were made and no fines were issued, however.
On Sunday, there were at least two other funerals held by Hasidic Jews on the streets of Brooklyn, the New York Post reported.
Cuomo last week extended until April 15 the NY State on Pause order, which closes all non-essential businesses and bans non-essential social gatherings.
The expansion of the order means that the ban on social gatherings will include Easter on April 12 as well as Passover, which begins Wednesday at sundown.
At the time, Cuomo acknowledged that cancelling services, ceremonies and special events surrounding the holidays was a drastic measure.
“Density is the enemy here. You worship the way you can, but the gatherings are just not a good idea,” he said.