NEW YORK - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, to contain the spread of COVID-19 in what was once the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, said on Sunday he is moving to shut non-essential businesses as well as schools in nine neighborhoods identified as coronavirus clusters, starting on Wednesday.
Seeking state approval for the lockdown, de Blasio said it would affect nine ZIP codes where coronavirus positivity rates have spiked, sometimes as the result of failure to social distance and wear face masks. He said neighborhoods in another 11 ZIP codes were on a "watch list" because of their rising positivity rates.
New York is one of only 18 states where cases have not risen over the past two weeks, according to a Reuters analysis. Nine states have reported record increases in COVID-19 cases over the last seven days, mostly in the upper Midwest and West where chilly weather is forcing more activities indoors.
If New York Governor Andrew Cuomo approves the shutdown, neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens would be ordered to close all non-essential businesses, restaurants and public and private schools. About 100 public schools and 200 private schools would be closed for anywhere from two to four weeks, if state approval is secured, he said.
De Blasio said those students in the nation's largest public school district who would be forced to participate in remote-only learning would be supplied with devices to enable them to continue classes, which previously had included in-person learning.
De Blasio said the lockdown was aimed at alleviating worries that cold weather in coming months will force more people indoors and result in a second wave of deadly disease spread, reminiscent of the overwhelming number of COVID-19 cases that flooded New York City hospitals in the spring.
"We need to contain the situation and absolutely we will avoid a second wave," de Blasio told a press conference on Sunday.
He said schools were not the major source of virus spread. "Of two schools in one of these zip codes, only one test came back positive," de Blasio said.