Photo Credit: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo YouTube / screengrab
NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo briefs New Yorkers on plan to address COVID-19 clusters.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced at his Wednesday briefing he intends to withhold funding from any yeshiva or any public school, for that matter, that remains open after having been told to close.

He also said the state will freeze funds for local governments that do not enforce the health guidelines regarding school closure in coronavirus hot spots.

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The governor said he is sending a letter to all the schools in red zone areas to notify them they must all be closed, and that they will lose their funding if they defy the order and remain open.

“Yeshivas receive a significant amount of funding,” Cuomo said. “If they violate the health order, they will not receive funding. If these schools are operating, it’s easy enough to find out.”

The governor named local governments in New York City, Orange County, Rockland County, the town of Ramapo and the village of Spring Valley, within Ramapo township.

Many of the above areas have large Jewish populations and Cuomo claimed there were violations due to political considerations.

“The enforcement from the local governments is very uneven, especially when its politically sensitive,” he said. “And that’s what we’re running into with a lot of these ultra-Orthodox communities, who are very politically powerful, don’t kid yourself…I don’t know how else to enforce what they need to do. Hopefully that will motivate them. Because nothing else I have done will motivate them,” he said.

Schools that have already been identified as having violated the order to close are to be served with a “mandatory closure” order that will include notification of their loss of funding by the state, ABC7 Eyewitness News reported.

The governor said the state will continue to withhold funding from the schools that were in violation “until the matter is resolved to the state’s satisfaction.

“We know there were violations where the yeshivas are operating,” Cuomo said. “We know there were violations where religious gatherings were happening that exceeded guidelines.”

Cuomo told The Hill that he believes the virus will continue to plague nations around the world, including the United States, at least for the next year and possibly for the next 18 months, until there is an effective vaccine to counteract it.

“We’ve now identified mini clusters in the state which are small geographic areas, they’re maybe two or three square miles. But, we then rush in, with resources to make sure we stamp it out there,” he said, adding that the latest New Yorkers who seem to be spreading the virus are the Orthodox Jews.

“We’re now having issues in the Orthodox Jewish community in New York where, because of their religious practices, etcetera, we’re seeing this spread,” Cuomo said. “But, we see it, we know it, we understand it, because we’re doing more testing than anyone else, and then you have to attack them,” he added.

“But this is gonna be the next year, and those are the lessons we have to learn from the past seven months.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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