NY schools in Orthodox neighborhoods with COVID upticks can reopen under new testing plan


(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 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday afternoon.

Cuomo closed schools earlier this month in areas that he labeled as “red” and “orange” zones because of their high test positivity 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% 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 non-essential businesses, which he also closed for in-person dining and shopping.

Agudath Israel, an umbrella organization representing haredi 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’zras 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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