N.Y.C. Mayor Calls for Non-Essential Businesses and Schools in Coronavirus Hotspots to Close

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for a shutdown of non-essential businesses in nine areas across the city that have seen a prolonged spike in coronavirus cases.

De Blasio outlined his proposal during a Sunday press conference, repeatedly noting that it “pains me to be putting forward this approach.”

“Over these last weeks we had some moments as New Yorkers that we could celebrate after everything we’ve been through,” he said. “Today, unfortunately, is not a day for celebration.”

“In some parts of our city in Brooklyn and Queens, we’re having an extraordinary problem. Something we haven’t seen since the spring,” he said, sharing that nine zip codes have reported a COVID-19 positivity rate of over three percent for at least seven consecutive weeks.

During the press conference, de Blasio noted that the plan he was outlining was just a proposal — and that he will need state approval before implementing it.

However, he hopes that starting Wednesday morning, all public and private schools in the nine areas would close, as would most businesses. Restaurants would be permitted to stay open, but only for take-out or pick-up. Houses of worship have not yet been included in the proposal.

Over half a million residents are predicted to be affected by the closures, as well as around 100 public and 200 private schools, according to ABC 7. The mayor estimated that the shutdown would last for between 2-4 weeks.

De Blasio also said that 11 additional neighborhoods are on a “watch list,” and that starting Wednesday, he is calling for a shutdown of “higher-risk activities” in those areas, including indoor dining, pools and gyms.

Commenting on the elevated COVID-19 rate in the N.Y.C. hotspots, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday that the state would be implementing “aggressive enforcement starting tomorrow.” He also mentioned the possibility of closing schools that are not performing an adequate amount of testing, although he has yet to publicly comment on de Blasio’s proposal.

Cuomo went on to note that 21 percent of all positive cases in the state on Saturday were from 20 zip codes. “If you live in one of these ZIP codes, treat this seriously,” he wrote on Twitter. “Wear a mask. Get tested. Wash your hands often. Don't attend large gatherings.”

After two-and-a-half months of steadily decreasing numbers of new COVID-19 cases, infections are again trending upwards in the U.S.

Last weekend, new cases in New York topped 1,000 for the first time since June, as Cuomo announced an increase in positive test results, primarily in neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. At the time, the NYC Health Department also said that “cases continue to grow at an alarming rate in eight neighborhoods in the city, outpacing the citywide average by 3.3 times over the past 14 days.”

"It's vital that New Yorkers continue to practice the basic behaviors that drive our ability to fight COVID-19 as we move into the fall and flu season," Cuomo said, according to CNN. "We cannot drop our guard."

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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