NEW YORK – Churches in several areas designated as “red zones” in New York City were left empty and calm on Sunday as officials continue to fight the coronavirus.
Across New York City, officials are reporting just 5 deaths and a statewide positivity rate of just under 1%. However, inside New York’s multiple red zones, positivity rates are close to 6%, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is hopeful that improved testing will allow health officials to monitor specific clusters.
Many were angry because their spiritual practices were interrupted by the second shutdown, although churches said they had taken additional measures to prevent transmission of the virus, including blocking social distancing zones, compulsory wearing of masks and various sanitation protocols.
“We did it well, we had no problem,” said Bishop David Cassato of St. Athanasius Church. “There were actually people at the door crying.
“Shutting down all places of worship because they think there is an epidemic and some places of worship are breaking the rules, I think that was a terrible message to send,” said Joe Esposito, former head of the NYPD and OEM Commissioner. “Track down those who commit the offenses.”
The fight to reopen churches may not be over, with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn saying the fight is just beginning.
For his part, Bishop Cassato says it is time for New York to consider churches as essential services.