Coronavirus News: Concern over COVID-19 spread in Orthodox Jewish communities

KIRYAS JOEL, Orange County (WABC) -- Amid reports that Orthodox Jewish communities were not following social distancing restrictions, officials in the northern suburbs of New York City are taking actions to curb large gatherings.

Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus says resistance the directives in the Orthodox Jewish community has led to a spike in coronavirus cases in Kiryas Joel, and he says he's "extremely concerned" about the virus' spread in the densely populated village which has over 100 schools.

"They didn't shut down those schools or synagogues until a day or so ago," Neuhaus said. "So that lead time has created chaos and is going to contribute to the number (of cases) we have here."

Govenor Andrew Cuomo has ordered that all non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason be canceled, and now, the Rockland County Department of Health is asking for the public's help to enforce the order.

Officials are asking anyone who sees a gathering of any size to report it by calling 845-364-2585.

"We need your help to ensure the health and safety of all of our residents; no one should be gathering together right now," Rockland County Executive Ed Day said. "Please report any gatherings, so inspectors from our Health Department can take action to shut them down for the safety of everyone involved. We understand that you want to celebrate the wedding you had been planning or your family member's birthday, but right now we all need to do the right thing and stay home. This is a matter of life and death."

Confirmed case numbers of coronavirus are rising across Rockland as testing increases and this disease continues to spread, and officials say it is imperative that everyone in stay home unless they are performing an essential work function.

Locations, including private residences, hosting gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason can be issued a violation for creating a Public Health Nuisance and can be shut down and fined $2,000 per day per violation under the Rockland County Sanitary Code.

A community activist in Monsey says the warnings to limit personal contact spread slowly in Hasidic communities.

"There are lot of people who don't have the internet, who don't have smartphones," Shani Bechhofer said. "If it's not in their local newspaper, they're not going to know about it."

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