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COVID Clusters In NYC: Churches, Small Businesses Hit Particularly Hard By Shutdown, Depending On Zone

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The COVID-19 shutdown plan is getting a lot of pushback from other New Yorkers, especially church goers and business owners.

The bells still toll outside St. Athanasius in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, but that doesn't mean the church can still welcome throngs of worshippers.

"It's unfair. Of course, everyone could pray from home, but it's a sense of community. It's a sense of gathering," parishioner Ignacyo Matynia told CBS2's Andrea Grymes on Wednesday.

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According to Msgr. David Cassato, new rules state a church that seats 700 can now only seat a maximum of 10.

It's all because they're in the new "Red Zone," where the COVID-19 positivity rate is over 3%.

"Essential services. This is essential for the life of people," Cassato said.


Cassato said the church has taken numerous precautions, including blocking off pews to ensure proper social distancing, and enforcing mandatory mask wearing.

There are also new protocols at the parish's school, which was forced to shut down in-person learning.

"People have returned to church. Children have been returning to school and it has been a wonderful experience and they just want to close it down again and hold everybody back," Cassato said.

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It's not just schools and houses of worship. All nonessential businesses in the Red Zone must close by Thursday. That means restaurants, which were just allowed to begin in-person dining at 25% capacity, must now go back to takeout only. No indoor or outdoor tables.

Quentin Pizza has been in Marine Park for 45 years. Business is down at least 50%.

"It's very hard right now. You have to keep the workers, pay and rent and all that stuff keep going. They don't give you a break on anything," owner Jesus Marine said.

Others said they are willing to do whatever it takes to end this pandemic.

Qathra Cafe in Flatbush is in the Orange Zone, which means no indoor dining. However, restaurants can still have outdoor dining with four people max per table.

"If that's what helps pull us out of this," one person said.

CBS2 found a lot of confusion among businesses about what zone they're in. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is doing outreach and will soon have a website up where residents can type in their address to find out if they fall in one of the zones.

He said the closures will last at least two weeks.

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