Far Rock Put on Lockdown Again After Covid-19 Uptick

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 After an increase in positive coronavirus cases, Far Rockaway’s 11691 is among nine New York City zip codes now facing tighter restrictions again. After a confusing back and forth between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over the course of the week, it was ultimately decided that schools and nonessential businesses in these areas have to close back down.

As Far Rockaway’s rate of positive coronavirus tests reached over the 3% threshold last week, along with several other areas across Queens and Brooklyn, New York’s leaders started discussing courses of action to help bring the numbers back down. Mayor de Blasio proposed closing schools in these areas starting Wednesday, as well as nonessential businesses. Governor Cuomo agreed to the public and private school closures, but bumped them up a day to Tuesday, October 6, while the issue of businesses remained up in the air. Late Tuesday afternoon, Governor Cuomo provided more clarification on the move, expanding the zones beyond the borders of zip codes and color coding guidelines on restrictions for these areas.

According to a map provided by the governor’s office, a large portion of Far Rockaway, from Bayswater Park to Beach 2nd Street, falls within the Red Zone, calling for the strictest measures.

In the Red Zone, houses of worship can only reach 25% capacity with a 10-person maximum. Mass gatherings are prohibited. Only essential businesses can remain open—including supermarkets, grocery stores, delis/bodegas, restaurants, medical services, pharmacies, banking institutions/financial centers, and communications (mobile phone), pet stores, wine and spirits/liquor stores. Restaurants in these areas must revert back to takeout only rather than offering indoor and outdoor dining.

Some parts of this area in Far Rockaway fall within the Orange Zone. This means houses of worship can be at 33% capacity or a 25-person maximum. There is a 10-person maximum for gatherings. Outdoor dining is allowed with a maximum of four people per table. Other areas fall within the Yellow Zone, which includes 50% capacity for houses of worship, 25 people maximum at gatherings, businesses can be open, indoor and outdoor dining is permitted and schools can be open but with weekly testing of students and staff for in-person instruction. (Find your Zone: NYC.Gov/COVIDZone)

After initially calling for the closure of nonessential businesses to take place on Wednesday, with Cuomo’s recommendations in play, de Blasio said the closures would begin Thursday, October 8. Businesses that are deemed nonessential include hair salons, nail salons, barber shops, clothing stores, furniture stores, flower shops, party goods stores, recreational facilities/ gyms. Further guidance and outreach will be done to advise business owners of their requirements. Several businesses around Mott Avenue and Cornaga Avenue will be impacted.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio said, “I feel tremendous empathy for small business owners who will have their businesses closed. But let’s realize that if we act quickly and decisively, we can overcome this for all of us, for the whole city.”

The Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corporation is extending help to businesses that may be impacted by these new restrictions. Kevin Alexander, President and CEO, said, “In response to the Governor’s Initiative, RDRC will be providing a special edition of its Rockaways Essential Business Guide, Far Rockaway/Edgemere Edition, assisting Far Rockaway businesses with establishing a digital marketing presence to connect with customers, providing businesses with additional PPE supplies for employees, and preparing applications for future COVID-19 grant and loan programs.” To learn more about how RDRC can assist your business email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Victoria Stukes at 718.327.5300 extension 318.

In addition to shutdowns and restrictions, people in these hotspot areas will be subject to strict enforcement including heavy fines for violating rules. The host of mass gatherings will be fined up to $15,000 per day. Those not wearing face coverings where required may face $1,000 fines.

These restrictions will be in place for a minimum of 14 days and will be dependent upon positive case numbers falling below 3% consistently for a week. As we go to press, these numbers are already showing improvement. On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo’s office released a chart indicating the positivity rate over the past few days. While 11691 saw a 3.4% seven-day average, on Monday, October 5, there were 4.5% positive cases and on Tuesday, October 6, that number was down to 4.0%.

Not often discussed among the positivity rate is the recent coronavirus death rate. According to data gathered by Robby Schwach of Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office, the number of new deaths has stayed low in recent weeks. In 11691, over the past month, the number of deaths increased by three from 374 to 377. In 11692, one person died over the past month for a total of 94. In 11693, there have been no new deaths over the past month and the total remains at 29. In 11694, there have been no new deaths and the total remains at 90. In 11697, there has been one new death and the total is at five.

In order to get a clearer idea of how these hotspot zones are faring, officials encourage all to get tested. There are several free testing spots across the peninsula, especially around the 11691 zip code. Rockaway’s free testing sites include Beach 39th (39-20 Rockaway Beach Blvd), open daily, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sorrentino Recreation Center (18-48 Cornaga Ave, open daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and a temporary testing spot has been set up on the boardwalk near Beach 9th Street, providing walk-in service from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 By Katie McFadden

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