New Rochelle mayor to 'Post': Containment area not quarantine zone

The people of New Rochelle "have formed an extraordinary internal support network of friends and neighbors who are delivering meals and in other ways assisting each other."

People in Westchester County, New York, listen to megillah reading from inside their homes. (photo credit: Courtesy)
People in Westchester County, New York, listen to megillah reading from inside their homes.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
WASHINGTON – The city of New Rochelle, New York, on Friday launched a coronavirus drive-through, with a capacity of some 200 cars a day. The city faces well over a hundred cases, and an area on one mile in radius was declared "containment area," in an attempt to curb the growing numbers.
"The containment area is a geographic region, one mile in radius, within which large institutions like schools and houses of worship are prohibited from having large gatherings, which is a common sense measure to slow the spread of the virus in an area with a high concentration of positive tests," Noam Bramson, mayor of New Rochelle, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview.
"However, it is not an exclusion zone or a quarantine zone," he clarified. "No one is prohibited from entering or leaving, the restrictions do not apply to individuals or businesses. There's no perimeter that is guarded or monitored.
"I happen to live in the containment zone," he continued. "I had lunch with my family at a restaurant in the containment zone yesterday. One can travel through the area and not have any sense of life having changed. It's only through these institutional impacts that the people of New Rochelle have been significantly affected."
Bramson told the Post that the daily routine in New Rochelle has been significantly disrupted. "Public schools are closed. Many houses of worship and other facilities have curtailed their activities. There are about a thousand residents who are under quarantine because of potential exposure to a carrier of the virus. And all of those things obviously are significant challenges for our community. And that's layered on top of concern for one's own health and the health of one's family and neighbors," he noted.
The mayor added that he is proud of the way in which the people of New Rochelle are handling the situation. "There has been no panic. There has been no hysteria. Residents are taking direction from public health experts using common sense measures and supporting each other. And it's important that we continue demonstrating a level of focus that is proportionate to the issues we are confronting," he said.
How are business effected?
"Business is slow, which is understandable. And certainly, individuals who have preexisting medical conditions, senior citizens, those with compromised immune systems - it makes sense for such people to be extremely cautious in how they interact with others. If on the other hand, you are a healthy adult, it doesn't necessarily make sense to withdraw entirely from the life and commerce of your community, because that creates its own problems. And if we take risk avoidance to an extreme, then that can also be debilitating. So we have to strike an appropriate balance of addressing a public health emergency without shutting down our society.
"The epicenter of this particular outbreak has been the congregation of young Israel of New Rochelle, which is a growing, thriving modern Orthodox synagogue," he continued. "And it is this community that bear the heaviest burden. The index patient is a member and the majority of those who have tested positive in our community are also members. I am very impressed by how the congregation has addressed this challenge. They have been responsible and public-spirited. But there's no question that this has been a difficult experience especially for that congregation above and beyond the experience that all people in New Rochelle are sharing.
"They have formed an extraordinary internal support network of friends and neighbors who are delivering meals and in other ways assisting each other," Bramson told the Post. "We have offered to establish partnerships with regional volunteer agencies and it simply hasn't been necessary because the internal resources of the congregation are so robust."
The first drive through testing site was opened today in New Rochelle. How does it work so far?
"It was just established today. So, I think it's too early to evaluate its operation. But it's very important to point out that residents could not simply show up for a test. They have to be pre-approved for a test. They can initiate a request by either speaking to their doctor or by calling a hotline established by New York state.
"New York state has done an excellent job of ramping up the testing capacity in our community but New Rochelle like every other city is facing a nationwide shortage, which has made it far more difficult to measure and manage the spread of the virus," he added.
Rochel Butman, director of the Chabad of Westchester, located in New Rochelle, told the Post that the local Chabad made sure that people who are under quarantine could listen to the reading of the Megillah (Book of Ester) with local youth who arrived outside people's houses and read it from the driveway.
"We went to 127 homes around Westchester," she told the Post. "We gave the boys a list [of families] and a flashlight [to read at night] we sent taxis [to pick them up to their destinations] and I drove some boys.  During the day, we also arranged mishloah manot [Purim gift-basket] and left it on people's balconies.
"Even that some people thought to listen to the reading of the Megillah on livestream, the real mitzvah (commandment) is to listen to it in person," she added. "People were very upset because it's a part of their tradition. I wasn't sure if people would be interested but I got very positive response."