Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York refused on Monday to allow New York City to close nonessential businesses in nine hot spots in Brooklyn and Queens where the coronavirus has spiked, pre-empting a plan announced the day before by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The governor suggested that the ZIP codes that were being used to identify hot spots were too imprecise to guide shutdowns. The more pressing problem, he said, lay in schools and houses of worship, including many that cater to Orthodox Jews, rather than businesses that “are not large spreaders.”
The dissonance in messages from the state’s two most prominent politicians created confusion for residents, business owners and parents in the affected areas and drew scrutiny to the conflict between city and state over how to tackle early signs of a second wave of the virus in its onetime epicenter.
The governor’s announcement also seemed to be yet another manifestation of his long feud with Mr. de Blasio. Mr. Cuomo has frequently second-guessed or overruled the mayor, who is also a Democrat, during their tenures. Those clashes were cast in sharp relief during the early days of the pandemic, with the city and state at odds over the timing of shutting down the city’s businesses and its schools, among other issues.
On Monday, that disconnect continued, as Mr. Cuomo accelerated the mayor’s plan to close schools in newly hard-hit areas, moving the closure date up a day to Tuesday, and forcing parents in those areas to again rejigger their schedules to accommodate changes in their children’s routines. Mr. Cuomo said he spoke with Mr. de Blasio and Michael Mulgrew, the president of the city’s teachers’ union, among other local officials, on Monday morning and added that all were in agreement on the need for additional data on cases at specific schools.
Mr. Cuomo did not rule out closing nonessential businesses or public spaces in the near future, and top aides suggested a state plan could be unveiled as soon as Tuesday. Mr. Cuomo said his administration was reviewing how best to do it without relying on geographic delineations from ZIP codes, which he said were arbitrary and might not accurately capture the areas where new cases are going up.
“A ZIP code is not the best definition of the applicable zone,” he said. “If you have to circumscribe an area, make sure you have the right boundaries.”
Cuomo administration officials later suggested that the boundaries for business closures could even exceed the ZIP codes where the increases are now occurring.
On Monday afternoon, not long after the governor’s news conference, Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference of his own that he still planned to close nonessential businesses in the nine ZIP codes. He added later that “we obviously will follow state law, and if the state does not authorize restrictions we’re not going to act. But I find that very unlikely at this point.”
Mr. Cuomo had also announced that the state would take over supervision of enforcement of mask and social-distancing rules in the hot spot clusters, presumably putting the State Police in charge of New York City Police Department officers. He added that local governments would need to provide personnel.
The mayor said that he did not believe that the state could seize control of enforcement from local governments but that he agreed with Mr. Cuomo on the need for aggressive enforcement and “stronger restrictions that will allow us to turn the tide.”
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