For weeks now, weeks that seem like months, this page has spoken about two issues more than any other: the need to reopen businesses, especially restaurants, as much as possible while keeping patrons safe, and the need to provide in-person learning to every student who wants it.
Now both goals, which are so vital to the city’s recovery from the onslaught of the coronavirus and the restrictions enacted to contain it, are in serious danger of failing. And the reason, paradoxically, seems to be that too many people are acting as if the virus has already been defeated. It has not. Yet we keep hearing about alleged speakeasies in Flushing getting busted for ignoring social distancing and mask rules, and now a wedding in Woodside that did the same — and you see people going without masks in stores all over the place all the time.
The result is that cases are jumping, especially in some parts of Brooklyn but also in the heart of Queens. The 14-day positive test rate in Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Fresh Meadows and Hillcrest is between 3 and 4 percent. In Far Rockaway and Edgemere it’s 4.74 percent, and in sections of Brooklyn it’s over 6 percent. That’s while the city’s overall positive test rate is only 1.5 percent, though it’s been edging up for the last month. And neighborhoods including Howard Beach and St. Albans are also seeing steeply higher case numbers of late.
City Hall is threatening to impose a new lockdown on those neighborhoods that see their positive test rates go too high — closing nonessential businesses and ending in-school instruction. That would be devastating. Now Gov. Cuomo also has weighed in, blasting governments including New York City’s for not enforcing mask and social distancing rules well enough. “We know how to contain the infection rate,” he said Wednesday. “This kind of incompetent activity will cost lives. I’m not going to let it happen.”
It shouldn’t take threats from City Hall and Albany for people to know they have to wear masks — the fine for not doing so is $1,000 — and taking the other measures needed to keep the spread of COVID low. We simply can’t take another shutdown of businesses, and our kids can’t learn properly without real school.