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New York closes Hasidic wedding that could have welcomed 10,000 guests

New York state health officials have taken extraordinary steps to end an ultra-Orthodox wedding scheduled for Monday that could have brought up to 10,000 guests to Brooklyn, near one of the hot spots of the New York coronavirus.

The state health commissioner intervened on Friday for sheriff’s deputies to deliver the order to the Hasidic synagogue on Friday, warning it must follow health protocols, including limiting gatherings to fewer than 50 people.

On Sunday, the synagogue, Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar, accused state officials of “unwarranted attacks” on the marriage, where a grandson of Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, the synagogue’s rabbi, was due to marry . The congregation said the ceremony and meal would have been limited to “close family members”, while the public was only invited to participate “for a short time.”

The wedding will continue, the synagogue said, but will be limited to a small group of family members. “It’s sad that no one checked our plans before attacking us,” Chaim Jacobowitz, the congregation secretary, said in a statement.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker has taken the rare step of personally making what is known as a Section 16 order, which can result in a daily fine of 10,000 $ in case of violation. The state issued dozens of section 16 orders during the pandemic.

Dr Zucker acted quickly by releasing it amid fears that the state’s first normal course of action, which involves a cease and desist letter and a hearing, would have been too late to prevent the big wedding, according to someone familiar with the state. Actions. State officials received an invitation to the wedding late last week and have confirmed some guests will be traveling there from hot spots in the state.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said on Sunday that a big wedding was too risky and could have resulted in a so-called big-air event. State officials said they determined that the wedding, which was to take place in Williamsburg, could have accommodated up to 10,000 people.

“My suggestion: have a small wedding this year,” Cuomo said at a press conference on Sunday. “Next year, have a big wedding. Invite me and I will come.

The episode highlighted growing tensions between the governor and the Hasidic community as state health officials attempt to control the surge in coronavirus cases in parts of Brooklyn and Queens and counties across the country. northern New York.

Some Orthodox voices, including a growing fraction of boisterous young men, accused the government of targeting them because of their faith and religious life. Earlier this month, the governor ordered further closure restrictions in areas where cases were on the rise.

Orthodox Jewish leaders announced a large community prayer scheduled for Tuesday in response to the marriage closure and wider restrictions. The event, which will be held by telephone, is not a protest, executives said.

Mr Cuomo said on Sunday that the state’s efforts to control the outbreaks had succeeded in reducing the rate of positivity in the targeted neighborhoods, which he had divided into zones. The state’s overall infection rate on Saturday was 1.08%, the governor said, significantly lower than in other states. But the rate is 3.19% in areas with the highest infection rates, or “red areas,” which include neighborhoods near Williamsburg. The synagogue itself is not located in a hot spot.

“We are so aggressive every time we see the virus appear – we run and attack it,” the governor said of the state’s strategy to control epidemics. “It’s exhausting but it’s effective.”

A number of factors – including distrust of scientific messages and secular authority, a dedication to community life, and dense living conditions – fueled the rise of the ultra-Orthodox community in the city. .

While New York state has one of the lowest rates of new cases, health officials worry about another spike in the colder months, when people largely stay away. indoors and can more easily spread the virus in confined spaces. Mr Cuomo noted on Sunday that even relatively small events, like a Sweet 16 party held on Long Island last month, can trigger an infectious outbreak.

The birthday party hosted more than 80 guests – above the maximum of 50 – and resulted in at least 37 cases and many more people being forced into quarantine.

In a similar episode, the New York Sheriff’s Office said early Sunday morning, MPs dispersed an illegal party of more than 215 people at a banquet hall in Queens’ Ozone Park neighborhood. Those present were dancing and not doing social distancing or wearing masks, authorities said.

Officials on Sunday announced seven more coronavirus-related deaths statewide, bringing the total to more than 26,440 people.

“We had the worst problem in the world at one point,” Cuomo said. “The numbers are all moving in the right direction.”

Liam Stack contributed reporting.

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