Virus Outbreak New York

Members of the Orthodox Jewish community speak with NYPD officers Oct. 7, 2020, in the Borough Park neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York.

(The Center Square) – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that demonstrations this week in Brooklyn against his plan to control the spread of COVID-19 were spurred by a robocall that insinuated President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign wanted residents to protest against the governor.

Cuomo played a recording of the purported call to reporters. Parts of it are inaudible, but the caller does say there’s been communication with the campaign.

“They're urging everybody to come out with signs, ‘Cuomo killed thousands,’” an unidentified male voice said. “Come to 13th Avenue and hold big signs, ‘Cuomo killed thousands,’ as many as possible, as big as possible.”

A spokesperson for the Trump campaign told it had no involvement with the call.

Later Friday afternoon, NY1 reporter Zack Fink tweeted that he spoke with the Borough Park individual who claimed to make the call. Fink did not identify that man who said he sent it to friends in jest.

Cuomo didn’t think the message was a laughing matter, telling reporters Friday morning that it was proof the president was “exploiting division and fomenting division” within the Orthodox Jewish community in an attempt to boost his campaign.

“I don't do wild speculation,” Cuomo added.

The new requirements the Cuomo administration announced for COVID-19 hot spot clusters were to go in effect by Friday. The plan creates color-coded zones within the hot spots and areas surrounding it.

Restrictions within the red zones, where the spread of the virus is most prevalent, include closing of schools and all but essential businesses. In addition, indoor religious gatherings are limited to just 25 percent capacity or a 10-person maximum. In the orange zone, places of worship are limited to 33 percent capacity or a maximum of 25 people.

Anyone who sponsors a mass gathering in violation of Cuomo’s order faces a fine of up to $15,000.

On Friday, a federal judge in Brooklyn declined to a request for a temporary restraining order against Cuomo’s policy against places of worship. Agudath Israel of America, a grassroots Orthodox Jewish group, filed the lawsuit Thursday claiming the order violates First Amendment rights, noting three religious holiday for the faith were approaching.

However, U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto said Cuomo’s order did not specifically target the Orthodox Jewish community, according to a New York Times report.

“How can we ignore the compelling state interest in protecting the health and life of all New Yorkers?” Matsumoto said.

The Orthodox Jewish community is not the only religious group fighting the order. Brooklyn’s Roman Catholic diocese also filed suit in federal court seeking a restraining order against the 10- and 25-person caps.