Federal judge refuses to block COVID-19 restrictions on Diocese of Brooklyn
BROOKLYN, New York, October 19, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A federal judge on Saturday refused a motion of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, to halt the implementation of new coronavirus restrictions, even as he praised the diocese for “enforcing stricter safety protocols than the State required at the given moment.”
In his ruling, Judge Nicholas Garaufis, a Clinton appointee, wrote, “if the court issues an injunction and the state is correct about the acuteness of the threat currently posed by hotspot neighborhoods, the result could be avoidable death on a massive scale like New Yorkers experienced in the spring.”
The number of daily deaths associated with COVID-19 in New York City, of which Brooklyn is a part, has been below 30 since mid-June. There haven’t been more than 10 daily deaths ever since August. Almost 10,000 of the 20,000 New Yorkers with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis were older than 75 years.
The daily number of people tested positive for COVID-19 has been consistently below 1,000 since early June. Roughly 8.4 million people live in New York City.
Both the Brooklyn Diocese and a group of Jewish communities have sued Governor Cuomo over the new restrictions. In announcing the diocese’s lawsuit on October 8, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio complained, “The State has completely disregarded the fact that our safety protocols have worked and it is an insult to once again penalize all those who have made the safe return to Church work.”
The diocese had been extremely cautious when reopening in July. It had enforced strict mask mandates and social distancing measures and limited church services to 25% capacity. Many of the churches in the diocese can accommodate more than 500 people. In his response to court’s ruling, DiMarzio wrote that the “proof of our compliance is the fact that we have not had any COVID outbreaks or significant cases in either our churches or schools.”
At the same time, he emphasized that the diocese would abide by the State’s restrictions. Moreover, exceeding the State’s demands, he announced that all churches in the “red” zones will close. He wrote that 10 person “red” zone limits “are extremely difficult to implement because we never want to turn away worshippers.” Now, nobody will be allowed to attend Mass.
Despite the current ruling, the bishop is planning to press forward with the case. “We will also continue to advocate for places of worship to be classified as essential, for there is nothing more necessary today than a community of believers, united in prayer, asking the Lord to end this pandemic,” he wrote.