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Positive coronavirus tests rising in New York’s Orthodox Jewish areas

Rates slowly increasing throughout state, but particularly in Orthodox neighborhoods, governor warns; Yom Kippur may have been a factor

Illustrative: Orthodox Jewish men use social distancing as they pray outside the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters, Friday, March 20, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Illustrative: Orthodox Jewish men use social distancing as they pray outside the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters, Friday, March 20, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The rate of positive coronavirus tests is ticking up in New York State, especially in neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish populations, the state’s governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Of the 52,936 tests reported Sunday, 834 were positive, or 1.5 percent of the total, tweeted Cuomo.

The positive rate had previously been at one percent for several days.

New York City became the global epicenter of the pandemic in spring, but in recent weeks officials have touted the lowest test positivity rate and infection rate among major US cities.

While a 1.5 positive rate is still relatively low, it conceals hot spots deemed “worrying” by health authorities, particularly parts of Brooklyn that have large populations of Orthodox Jews.

In some of these neighborhoods, the infection rate has risen to five or six percent, and has been linked to the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur that ended Monday, according to health officials.

Cuomo also cited Rockland County and Orange County, suburbs with large Orthodox Jewish populations, as areas where the positive rate is increasing.

The rise is particularly concerning as public schools in the US financial capital prepare to reopen classrooms for part-time learning in-person, a move the city has already postponed twice.

“This may be the most precarious position with COVID-19 we have experienced in months,” New York health commissioner Dave Chokshi told reporters Friday.

Authorities have warned that they will inspect non-public schools — including Jewish religious schools — in the coming days, and sanction establishments where social distancing and mask rules aren’t being implemented.

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