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Schools in NY Orthodox neighborhoods can reopen under new testing plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says educational institutions in areas with high infection rates can open if all teachers, staff and students are tested

Members of the Orthodox Jewish community wait for school buses to collect them in the Borough Park neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York, October 8, 2020. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Members of the Orthodox Jewish community wait for school buses to collect them in the Borough Park neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York, October 8, 2020. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

JTA — After weeks of closures, schools in parts of New York with relatively high COVID-19 rates, including several that are home to large Orthodox Jewish communities, will be allowed to reopen as part of a new testing plan announced Friday afternoon by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo closed schools earlier this month in areas that he labeled as “red” and “orange” zones because of their high positive test rates. Under the new rules, they will be allowed to reopen if all students, faculty and staff are tested for COVID. Schools will also have to randomly test 25 percent of students on a weekly basis going forward.

In the Brooklyn red zone, 3.62% of COVID tests Thursday came back positive, more than twice the citywide rate.

Cuomo’s announcement did not address restaurants and nonessential businesses, which he also closed for in-person dining and shopping.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a ceremony unveiling a statue of Mother Frances Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants, in Battery Park in New York, October 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

Agudath Israel, an umbrella organization representing ultra-Orthodox communities, cheered the decision about schools. “We look forward to working with the yeshiva community and the governor’s office to help implement this plan to reopen our precious yeshivos,” the group said in a statement Friday afternoon. “And as rates of infection in our neighborhoods continue to b’ezras Hashem [with God’s help] decline, we look forward for other parts of our community to safely reopen.”

Just as in the spring, when some yeshivas operated illegally despite statewide lockdowns, some yeshivas in Brooklyn have remained open despite the closure order imposed earlier this month.

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