Nassau County Executive Laura Curran points to the Cluster Action Initiative map where the orange and yellow zones cross over from New York City during a news conference on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.

Parts of the Five Towns area of southwestern Nassau County will have new restrictions starting Friday as part of a New York State crackdown to curb the spread of coronavirus in communities with high infection rates.

The state’s co-called Cluster Action Initiative is aimed at containing COVID-19 hot spots in Brooklyn, Rockland, and Orange counties, which face the strictest rules and have been marked as red zones by health officials. But buffer zones around the targeted communities bleed across the New York City line, with less stringent orders in orange zones such as parts of Lawrence and Inwood, and yellow zones like Cedarhurst. Lawrence has the highest infection rate in the county.

“The infection rate in the hot spots is five times the overall infection rate,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, noting that the state’s overall testing rate remains at about 1 percent. “We want to make sure the infection rate in the hot spots does not spread. The spread is inevitable if we do not control the hot spot.”

A recent spike in infections after a summer lull has been a somber reminder that the virus is still spreading, especially in places where large groups gather for religious or other reasons without adhering to public health guidance.

In Lawrence and Inwood’s orange zones, capacity at houses of worship is called at 25 people, gatherings are limited to 10 people, schools to be remote-learning only, indoor dining is prohibited, only four people per table are allowed for outdoor dining, and high-risk non-essential businesses such as gyms and personal care must close.

In Cedarhurst’s yellow area, houses of worship are capped at 50 percent, gatherings are limited to 25 people, and weekly coronavirus testing is mandated for all students, teachers, and staffers at in-person schools. But businesses remain open and dining is not effected. The rules for both zones last 14 days.

“There are currently no red zones in Nassau County,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters Wednesday, noting that there have been “spikelets” in some communities. “We want to keep it that way.”

The viral spread has been especially acute in the Orthodox Jewish enclaves such as Brooklyn, Rockland, Orange, and the Five Towns areas where the governor says social distancing and mask-wearing have not been adequately enforced.

A drop in infection rates prompted some people – including, but not limited to, Orthodox Jews – to become more lax about mask-wearing and social distancing, several members of the Orthodox Jewish community told Reuters.

“It’s critically important for everybody to buy into this,” said Aaron Glatt, an associate rabbi at an Orthodox congregation in Woodmere and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside.

-With Reuters

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