Schools in New York suburb to close
NEW YORK – Schools, houses of worship and large gathering venues in part of the New York City suburb of New Rochelle will shut down for two weeks in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak at its local epicenter, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.
The shutdown, which begins on Thursday and is due to last until at least March 25, affects an area of New Rochelle in Westchester County that measures 1 mile (1.61 km) in diameter. The county accounts for more than 100 of the state’s 173 confirmed cases, the governor said.
“This will be a period of disruption for the local community,” Cuomo said at a news conference. “It is a dramatic action, but it is the largest cluster in the country. And this is literally a matter of life and death.”
Cuomo said he was calling in the National Guard to the containment area to assist with cleaning public spaces and to deliver food to homes.
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said the National Guard would ensure that students who rely on school meals would receive food but would “not have a military or policing function”.
“It is very important to clarify that this is not an exclusion or quarantine zone. No one is prohibited from entering or leaving the area,” the mayor said at a news conference after the governor’s announcement.
The number of cases of the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the virus has risen steadily to more than 800 in the United States. There have been 28 deaths, most of them in Washington state, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. New Jersey on Tuesday reported the state’s first death.
The containment measure will close three public schools and several parochial and private schools, in addition to houses of worship, country clubs, and possibly other public places, Bramson said.
New Rochelle’s senior centre, which is outside the containment zone, will also be closed until further notice to prevent spread of the disease among one of the most vulnerable groups, the mayor said.