By Jessica Easthope
The threat of closing is once again looming over non-essential businesses.
In recent weeks eight neighborhoods have been identified as having clusters of new COVID-19 cases, prompting the city and Health Department to take action.
“Now we have a bigger problem on our hands and the situation particularly in Southern Brooklyn is causing great concern,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Mayor de Blasio took no questions during a bill signing Sept. 28 but last week he warned the city would ramp up safety enforcement if needed.
“If there are particular institutions, organizations, businesses that are not being responsive to the need to protect everyone, we’re going to be clear about the enforcement needed there,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The New York City Health Department said if new COVID-19 cases continue to rise in hotspots like Williamsburg, the city could ban gatherings of more than 10 people, hand out fines and close private schools and non-essential businesses.
“We don’t want to again have to close down businesses, we don’t want to have more restrictions, there are easier ways for us to go on with our lives,” said Dr. Mitch Katz the CEO, of NYC Health + Hospitals.
Most of the problematic areas account for more than 20 percent of the city’s new cases. Gravesend, Brooklyn alone accounts for seven percent. But it’s not only an increase in cases that has city officials on high alert – there’s also a rise in hospitalizations.
On September 15 there were 26 people in New York City hospitalized with COVID-19, on Sept 26 that number shot up to 278.
One of the hotspots is Williamsburg where Gabe Haim and his twin brother Danny own The Brooklyn Barber. During the months they were closed, they lost 70 percent of their business.
“We lost a lot of our clients, people are not getting haircuts anymore because they’re not going out, everything is shut down, we don’t need to look good,” Gabe said.
Already struggling to pay their nearly $30,000 monthly rent across three locations, losing the clients that came back would be devastating.
“We’re staying open a little later just to grab some more clients, and the clients are giving us a little bit more for tips just to survive,“ said Gabe.
According to the New York City Health Department, Monday, the only action the agency has taken is an increase in safety inspections.