USA

NYC DOH empowers agencies to shut businesses dodging COVID-19 rules

New York health commissioner Dave Chokshi on Thursday vested city agencies with the authority to shutter businesses that repeatedly flout coronavirus regulations, as an eleventh neighborhood crossed the troubling three-percent positivity rate threshold.

The Department of Health announced the move hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed more rigorous enforcement in an effort to contain the pandemic, but a City Hall spokesman said there were no closures made Thursday.

Among the agencies specifically empowered in the order are the NYPD, FDNY, Sheriff’s Office and Department of Buildings.

“This raises the temperature,” said a city official, speaking on condition of anonymity about why the order was issued now. “This is about putting some muscle behind the enforcement.

“This makes it very clear these rules must be followed and if they’re not followed, you’ll be shut down.”

The city has identified four distinct “clusters” in Queens and Brooklyn that have seen spiking cases of the coronavirus in recent weeks.

They are in Central Queens, Far Rockaway, Williamsburg and South Brooklyn, and have significant overlap with the Hasidic Jewish community, with which the city has struggled in its outreach efforts.

The latter cluster on Thursday saw another ZIP code — 11235, covering Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach and part of Sheepshead Bay — tick above a three-percent positivity rate over the last 14 days, the 11th ZIP code within the four clusters to cross that line.

Those ZIP codes have accounted for 29.9 percent of new coronavirus cases tallied in the city over the past two weeks, despite only representing 8.8 percent of the city’s population, according to DOH.

Over the past seven days, the areas have a 6.43 percent positivity rate — more than quadruple the citywide average of 1.52 percent.

Another seven ZIP codes adjacent to those, while still below a three-percent positivity rate, have been labeled areas of concern by DOH.

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