With Lawrence and Cedarhurst in the orange and yellow zones, respectively, of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Covid-19 cluster hotspot initiative, the Lawrence School District is closed through Oct. 23. All Lawrence schools, except for the high school are in the orange zone of Cuomo’s three-colored chart he unveiled on Oct. 6.
“State officials are extremely concerned that without turning around the rising infection rate there will be a resurgence of the virus, Lawrence Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said. “So with this cluster action initiative they are just trying to drill down the concern that is out there. My hope is that people not in school do not behave in a way that will not allow the objective to be met.” She said a reopening date is yet to be determined.
Her concern is the children, she said, who have “been tremendous making the adjustment and been so good wearing the masks, staying behind the shields,” and not will be losing live instruction. Lawrence schools did have four confirmed Covid cases in the first week of October that closed the Lawrence Primary School for a day.
The Lawrence Primary School at the Number Four School and the Number Two School, both in Inwood, and the Broadway Campus, which houses the elementary school and the middle school are in the orange area. The Number Two School is home to the district’s universal Pre-K and kindergarten programs. “The students, teachers and staff have done a great job,” Pedersen said, “it has nothing to do with the school plan, it’s in the orange zone and that’s not negotiable.”
The Village of Lawrence became a hotspot for the coronavirus in recent weeks substantially exceeding the statewide infection rate of 1 percent. Mayor Alex Edelman said that the village is doing everything as “humanly possible” to emphasize that wearing masks, social distancing and handwashing must be done to help contain the virus. He said that the several synagogues he visited were adhering to social distancing protocols. “We sent out a letter to the rabbinate and I would say that up to 95 percent are adhering to the guidelines.”
On Cuomo’s chart which is geared more for many of the New York City hotspot clusters, but applies statewide, there are five types of activities listed: Worship, mass gatherings, businesses, dining and schools. Under the red zone, houses of worship are permitted 25 percent of capacity, 10 people maximum. Mass gatherings are prohibited. Only essential businesses are open. Dining is takeout only and schools are closed with remote learning only.
In the orange zone, houses of worship are allowed 33 percent capacity, 25 people maximum. Inside and outside mass gatherings are at a 10 people maximum. High-risk non-essential businesses such as gyms and personal care are closed. Only outdoor dining is permitted with a four-person maximum at a table. Schools are closed with remote learning only.
Under the yellow zone, houses of worship are allowed 50 percent capacity. Mass gatherings is a 25-person maximum. All businesses are open. Indoor and outdoor dining is permitted with four people max at a table. Schools are open with mandatory weekly testing of students and teachers and staff for in-person instruction. Fines for violating the new restrictions could be as high as $15,000.
Cedarhurst Mayor Benjamin Weinstock pulled no punches regarding Cuomo’s present initiative. He noted that placing restrictions on houses of worship and mass gatherings and closing schools is not the right response. “It is the wrong solution, ineffective and puts people at risk,” Weinstock said. “It doesn’t solve the problem and with kids not in school it makes it worse.”