Jewish COVID-19 second wave updates: Positivity rates climb in Orthodox Long Island

Shira Hanau

NEW YORK (JTA) – After an initial first wave that devastated New York City’s Orthodox Jewish communities, the coronavirus is on the rise again. Meanwhile, Israelis are back under lockdown after new infections there reached crisis levels.

As we did this spring, we’re tracking the news flowing in from across Jewish communities here.

And as always, we want to hear from you. Have questions, tips or insights about how your community is responding to the pandemic more than six months in? Get in touch.

Friday, Sept. 25

9 a.m. Positivity rates up in several communities: The proportion of COVID-19 tests in the 5 Towns area of Long Island has risen from 1.5% to 3.5% in the last week, according to Dr. Marc Sicklick, a physician who has been advising the Orthodox community there. In Far Rockaway, another heavily Orthodox area, the test positivity rate went up to 5.2%, Sicklick reported in a letter that exhorts Jews to take precautions seriously.

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“It doesn’t take a mathematician to see where this is going if we don’t ALL do the right thing immediately,” Sicklick wrote. “We are heading towards disease spread and to government ordered lockdowns.”

Thursday, Sept. 24

8:05 p.m. New York City vows to crack down: After days of warning about rising COVID-19 cases in Orthodox neighborhoods, New York City is threatening drastic enforcement measures starting as early as Tuesday, the day after Yom Kippur.

Jewish community leaders say they were not consulted or informed before the city announced the plan.

The city also plans to begin inspecting private schools in areas with high COVID-19 rates to check that they are conforming to the city’s rules, which include shutting when there are two unrelated cases in the same building.

The enforcement measures could include closing businesses and schools, moves that would inflame already strained relations between the communities and the city. Read our complete report here.

4:20 p.m. Whatsapp messages encourage parents to hide infections: A message going around on the widely used messaging service Whatsapp advises parents to obscure COVID-19 infections in their children so that schools are not required to close.

“If your child is sick please keep them home, and indicate that they have a stomach ache or other symptoms not consistent with covid,” it said. “The administration’s hands are tied because of health department guidelines so it is up to the parents to make sure our school remains open. Please pass the word along. DO NOT TEST YOUR CHILD FOR COVID.”

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