New York City Implements Mask Fines as COVID-19 Cases Soars

On Tuesday, New York City’s mayor issued a warning to fine anyone caught in public without a mask. Amidst this news, the Walt Disney Co. stated that it would lay off some 28,000 employees as its flagship California theme park remains shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chain of Events

Over 205,000 people have lost their lives in the United States and about 7.2 million people have been infected since the pandemic started in March, according to a tally conducted by Reuters.

At Disney, around two-thirds of the employees undergoing layoffs are part-time workers, the company claimed in a statement. The company’s original theme park, Disneyland, remains closed according to an order of California state officials.

“We have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our parks,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney’s parks unit, said in a statement, pointing towards Disneyland’s ongoing closure.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio stated that the city is going to fine residents or visitors up to $1,000 if they refuse to wear a mask in public. The rate of positive COVID-19 tests has gone above 3% in New York City for the first time in many months.

“We don’t want to fine people, but if we have to, we will,” de Blasio said during a news conference declaring the penalty, which will be enforced by police and health officials who will provide a mask to those found not wearing one before fining them.

The state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority implemented a similar policy earlier this month, fining commuters who refuse to wear a mask on public transit $50.

Students Returning to Schools

De Blasio’s declaration came as many students got back to New York City public elementary schools for the first time on Tuesday. This was a part of an effort to offer a mix of in-person and virtual learning that had twice been postponed amid opposition by teachers’ unions.

The city has stated it is going to shut schools again if the seven-day average gets to 3% or more.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has bragged of his state’s success in cutting the transmission of the virus on Tuesday, warned that he might curb indoor dining again or bring back other restrictions, although he stated such moves were not yet warranted.

“(But) if the local governments do not do the compliance and attack the clusters, you will be there in the short-term future.”

Condition of Other States

Cuomo has quibbled with de Blasio over who has the authority to lay restrictions on residents and businesses. The governor stated that he would meet with leaders of Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn as well as Nassau, Orange, and Rockland counties, where infections have gone up.

Rabbi Asher Bush, who leads the Orthodox Jewish Congregation Ahavat Yisrael in Rockland County, stated some synagogues have been more rigid as compared to others, particularly as infection rates dwindled during the summer months.

“There is a very large gamut of how different congregations are conducting themselves,” he said in a telephone interview, adding that his congregation was being very vigilant by enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing.

Apart from New York state, 28 other states have observed seeing upticks in new coronavirus infections over the past two weeks, and COVID-19 hospitalizations were soaring in various Midwestern states.

Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin have all registered record numbers of hospitalized patients in the past seven days. On Monday, North Dakota recorded 105 hospitalizations and Wisconsin 640.