Conn. Reopens, and Some Worship to Resume in N.Y. – The New York Times

Posted By on May 21, 2020

Reopening begins in Connecticut.

Connecticut, which has been less affected by the coronavirus than neighboring New York, took the biggest step toward restarting its dormant economy on Wednesday, allowing restaurants, stores and malls to reopen, with significant limits.

At Pops Family Restaurant in Milford, regulars were waiting outside for the diner to open at 9 a.m., said Ipakoi Grigoriadis, whose family owns the place.

It is quite exciting to see our customers we havent seen in a while, she said.

But it was not business as usual: Pops, like other Connecticut restaurants, was offering only outdoor seating, and it planned to gradually expand service to half of its capacity.

Servers would be wearing gloves and masks at all times, Ms. Grigoriadis said, adding patrons would be expected to wear masks except when they are eating and drinking.

It is still a little scary considering we dont exactly know what this is, she said in between fielding orders for waffles and other breakfast dishes.

Stores and malls in Connecticut must also maintain a capacity of 50 percent and adopt stringent cleaning procedures. Masks are required, and seating areas like food courts will stay closed.

At Hannoush Jewelers in Danbury, Eddie Hannoush, the owner, said foot traffic was down about 30 percent from what he would expect on a typical day.

Mr. Hannoush had established new protocols for trying on engagement rings: Every one will be disinfected before being handed to a customer; if it not bought, it will be disinfected before being returned to the display case. He said he also had latex gloves available for those who felt more comfortable trying on a ring over a glove.

At the Connecticut Post Mall in Milford, where 22 of 130 shops opened, workers were handing out packets with masks and hand sanitizer, said Ken Sterba, the malls general manager.

I dont see fear in peoples eyes, he said. It just feels like a Wednesday morning.

Although offices in Connecticut were also allowed to open, with masks required and layouts adjusted to ensure social distancing, Gov. Ned Lamont has urged workers to continue to work from home if they can do so.

To note the start of the new phase, Mr. Lamont ordered that flags in the state, which had been flying at half-staff during the outbreak, be returned to full staff.

Things went well enough on Wednesday that Mr. Lamont began to outline the states plans for the next phase of Connecticuts reopening process.

Speaking at his daily briefing, he said he expected hotels, gyms, museums, movie theaters and other nonessential businesses would be allowed to reopen on June 20 and that restaurants would be able to begin seating people indoors that day.

More tightly packed indoor businesses like bars and indoor event spaces pose a greater threat of virus transmission and would most likely be kept from opening until late July, officials said.

I think thats incredibly risky, Mr. Lamont said. And its risky for the people that work at the casinos, and its risky for the people that go to the casinos.

Later in the day, the governor signed an executive order allowing all registered Connecticut voters to cast absentee ballots in the states Aug. 11 primary.

The easing of restrictions in Connecticut began even as nearby regions of New York, including New York City and the Hudson Valley, remained far from meeting state benchmarks for making a similar move.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut worked together on shutdown orders to ensure that their residents did not cross state borders to avoid strict social-distancing requirements, possibly spreading the virus.

Yet in recent weeks, with the states having varying success in fighting the virus, their governors have set different criteria for reopening, in sections or all at once.

In New Jersey, retail stores could provide curbside pickup as of Monday; in New York City, nonessential businesses remain closed.

A Brooklyn synagogue will be ordered to stop allowing large gatherings after the authorities found more than 100 people there early Wednesday, officials said.

After receiving a 311 complaint about the gathering at the synagogue, on South Eighth Street in the Williamsburg section, officers visited around 8 a.m. and saw a large crowd inside, officials said.

The officers ordered those who were gathered to disperse, which they did quickly and peacefully, a police spokeswoman said. No arrests were made and no summonses were issued, she added.

Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said the synagogue would be served with a cease-and-desist order requiring that it no longer host such gatherings or risk a fine of up to $1,000.

This behavior is unacceptable, Ms. Lapeyrolerie said in a statement.

Representatives for the synagogue could not immediately be reached for comment.

The dispersal of the synagogue crowd was the latest episode of the authorities breaking up large gatherings of Orthodox Jews under rules that were adopted to help slow the coronaviruss spread.

Mr. de Blasios strong denunciation of the April 28 event prompted some Jewish leaders to say he was singling out a particular community unfairly. He and the police have also been criticized by others who say the social distancing rules are being enforced in a way that targets black and Hispanic residents.

Westchester County will open two beaches to residents only.

The beaches, at Playland Park in Rye and Croton Point Park in Croton-on Hudson, will be open with reduced capacities from Friday through Monday, Memorial Day, county officials said in a statement.

Anyone entering the two parks must verify their residency with a county park pass or a drivers license with a Westchester address, officials said; all beachgoers will also be required to maintain social distance and have a mask.

In making his announcement, Mr. Cuomo also said local officials had the latitude to make their own decisions on beach access.

Using that discretion, Mr. de Blasio determined that opening the citys beaches by the holiday weekend was not in the cards and he warned New Yorkers that the city would be monitoring them for crowding. (People can venture onto the sand even though the beaches are not officially open, lifeguards are not on duty and swimming is prohibited.)

Mr. de Blasios decision to keep the citys beaches closed prompted officials in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, like their Westchester counterparts, to move to limit access to county run beaches to residents only.

Michael Cohen will be released from prison amid coronavirus concerns.

Michael D. Cohen, President Trumps former personal lawyer and fixer, will be released from a federal prison on Thursday on furlough, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman said on Wednesday. He had asked to be released over health concerns tied to the coronavirus.

One law enforcement official briefed on the matter said it was expected that Mr. Cohen would serve the balance of his sentence under home confinement, but it was unclear on Wednesday whether a final decision had been made with regard to that.

Prisons and jails across the country have been hot spots for the spread of the virus. In April, Attorney General William P. Barr ordered the prisons bureau, which is part of the Justice Department, to determine which federal inmates could be safely released to home confinement. As of May 13, more than 2,500 inmates had been, according to bureau data.

The federal crimes that Mr. Cohen admitted to were part of a scheme to pay hush money to two women who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump before he was president, which Mr. Trump has denied.

In March, the judge who sentenced Mr. Cohen rejected his request for release. Mr. Cohens lawyer, Roger B. Adler, had said in court papers that his client has had two hospitalizations, and a pre-existing condition of pulmonary issues.

Mr. Adler said on Wednesday that he was pleased to learn Mr. Cohens application for compassionate release has been viewed favorably and that he looked forward to his client being reunited with his family.

The Bureau of Prisons decision to release Mr. Cohen on Thursday was reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The United States attorneys office in Manhattan, which prosecuted Mr. Cohen, had no comment.

Mr. Cohens release came a week after Paul Manafort, Mr. Trumps onetime campaign chairman, was released into home confinement in Northern Virginia because of underlying health conditions and concerns about the virus. He had been serving a federal prison sentence of seven and a half years.

Religious services with up to 10 people can resume in N.Y.

Religious gatherings of up to 10 people can resume in New York State on Thursday if attendees wear masks and maintain social distance, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday.

I understand their desire to get back to religious ceremonies as soon as possible, Mr. Cuomo said of faith leaders.

He added: I think that even at this time of stress and when people are so anxious and so confused, I think those religious ceremonies can be very comforting. But we need to find out how to do it, and do it safely and do it smartly.

The announcement was particularly significant for Jewish congregations, where a minyan, defined as 10 people over 13, is required for a worship service.

Connecting to the almighty through prayer is part of who we are and it is something that helps us grow and also cope, said Motti Seligson, a spokesman for the Chabad Lubavicher community of Orthodox Jews. At a time like this when there are so many challenges, not having that has been very hard for many people.

The new rule comes just before with the Jewish holiday of Shavuot on May 28, in which traditionally the Ten Commandments are read before a quorum of 10 Jews, Mr. Seligson added, making the moment particularly meaningful.

New Jersey officials warned residents on Wednesday to be wary of fraudsters identifying themselves as contact tracers in order to obtain financial information.

In recent weeks, as health departments have hired legitimate tracers to track the spread of the coronavirus, fake tracers have been sending people text messages looking for insurance information and bank account and social security numbers, said Judith Persichilli, the state health commissioner.

Real contact tracers do not ask for such things, the state said.

A legitimate tracer will call, identify themselves as part of a local health department, and explain to the person on the phone that they may have come into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

Scams around the virus, unemployment benefits and stimulus checks have proliferated nationwide, the authorities say.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy said there is a special place in hell for people who would scam others during the pandemic.

Mr. Murphy also reported the states daily virus fatalities: 168, bringing the overall death toll to 10,747.

Vaccination rates fall steeply in N.Y.C.

The New York Times is looking to speak to parents who have not had their children vaccinated during the coronavirus outbreak. Please email our reporter Eliza Shapiro.

While a scramble is on to find a vaccine for the virus, another public health hazard has surfaced in New York City amid the pandemic: Vaccination rates for childhood diseases have dropped precipitously, putting children at risk, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday.

With many doctors offices closed, the number of vaccine doses administered citywide from March 23 to May 9 dropped 63 percent compared with the same period last year, Mr. de Blasio said. For children older than 2, the number of vaccine doses was down 91 percent.

Children are supposed to receive vaccinations for whooping cough, measles, chickenpox and other illnesses.

We never want to see a child threatened by respiratory disease any year, the mayor said. But if that were to happen this year, it comes with greater dangers.

He added: The pieces unfortunately start to fit together in a way that should cause parents real concern an unvaccinated child at greater threat of contracting a disease that could then put them at a greater threat of contracting Covid.

Mr. de Blasio also said at his daily briefing that the city would provide enough virus tests to nursing homes so that every resident could be tested.

Whatever amount of tests they need, whatever amount of lab capacity they need, we will find it for them, Mr. de Blasio said. He did not provide details about where the city would get the tests but he said that he expected the homes collectively to need 3,000 tests a day.

The city will also provide workers to fill in for nursing home employees who test positive for the virus and must take at least two weeks off, Mr. de Blasio said. The state has required all nursing home workers to be tested.

A popular neighborhood butcher reopens after its longtime proprietors death.

When Jennifer Prezioso reopened Albanese Meats and Poultry, her familys butcher shop on Elizabeth Street in Manhattan this week, a stream of neighbors stopped in to offer condolences for the death of her grandfather, Gandolfo Albanese.

Mr. Albanese, who was known as Moe, died of Covid-19 on April 7, Ms. Prezioso said. He had worked at the store for 70 years.

The visitors included people who had grew on Elizabeth Street, a few of whom still lived nearby. There were also more recent arrivals to the area, which once part of Little Italy but was renamed Nolita by real estate brokers some years ago.

For many people, Moe was the glue that held the neighborhood together.

He really felt he had a purpose here Ms. Prezioso said. It wasnt only about being a butcher, it was about making people feel like they belonged and were welcomed

Her grandfather, she said, had simple tastes and did not speak much but was an excellent listener. He was also a voracious reader who always kept a book nearby.

Ms. Prezioso, an actress who has appeared in Off Off Broadway shows, learned about running the business from Mr. Albanese after joining him there 2017. Until March, he was a fixture at the shop, sitting inside or out front greeting passers-by.

Now, Ms. Prezioso works by herself. On Wednesday, she brought some filet mignon to Lola Saenz, an artist who works at a nearby juice bar, and the women reminisced about Mr. Albanese.

Ms. Saenz said she would often brought hot soup or smoothies to the shop, where she would sit and eat with him.

He was like a grandfather to me said Ms. Saenz, who grew up in El Paso, Texas. I have no relatives in New York and he made me feel like I was family

N.J. gym opens, gets cited, then opens again.

Two defiant gym owners in New Jersey who opened twice this week in a violation of shutdown orders were issued summonses on Tuesday.

The business, Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, a suburb of Philadelphia, had been the backdrop to a rally on Monday that drew hundreds of people calling for Gov. Phillip D. Murphy to loosen state rules and allow nonessential businesses to resume operating.

On Tuesday morning, the gym owners, Frank Trumbetti and Ian Smith, were charged with disorderly persons offenses, the police said.

At a briefing Tuesday afternoon, Col. Patrick J. Callahan of the New Jersey State Police said the gym had opened both Monday and Tuesday and the owners had been charged twice.

The Bellmawr authorities said that five gym patrons were also issued summonses on Tuesday for using the gym in violation of the state order. One person was charged with organizing a protest in violation of the order and one person was also charged obstructing the administration of law, the police said.

Attempts to reach a lawyer for the gym owners were not immediately successful on Tuesday night. But the lawyer told NJ.com that the closures had gone on for too long.

Im not worried about jail, Mr. Trumbetti told NJ.com. It is what it is. Ian and I made a conscious decision to actually fight for the cause for everybody.

An online fund-raising campaign that is said to be for the defense of Atilis Gym Bellmawr and all of its members and to support our efforts to reopen had raised nearly $40,000 as of Wednesday morning.

Mr. Murphy had warned Monday that those who chose to come to the gym a second consecutive day would face a different reality than at the beginning of the week. Asked about the situation again on Tuesday, he insisted: Were not there on gyms and said he was concerned about it.

I dont want to be equivocating, he added.

Reporting was contributed by Maria Cramer, James Estrin, Michael Gold, Matthew Haag, Andy Newman, Sarah Maslin Nir, Matt Stevens and Benjamin Weiser.

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Conn. Reopens, and Some Worship to Resume in N.Y. - The New York Times

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