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Court Upholds Restrictions On Houses Of Worship In COVID-19 Hot Spots

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Lawsuits filed by the Diocese of Brooklyn and an Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization to block limited attendance at houses of worship in COVID-19 hot spots have been denied.

The rulings mean Gov. Andrew Cuomo's order to limit capacity to 25% or no more than 10 people within red zones, where the infection rate is above 3%, can be enforced.

A federal judge announced the ruling against the Diocese of Brooklyn late Friday, CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reported. The Orthodox Jewish organization's lawsuit was struck down by a federal judge Friday afternoon.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio made the following statement in response to the ruling:

"We are disappointed by last night's initial ruling, but this is only the beginning of the case, and we expect ultimately to prevail. We are seeking what is just. And we have kept parishioners safe and will continue to do so. Thus, there is no reason for this latest interference with our First Amendment right to celebrate Mass together, so we will continue to press the courts and our elected officials to end it as soon as possible.

"We are left with no choice but, for now, to abide by the new restrictions that limit Mass attendance to 10 people in the red zones and 25 in the orange zones."

Members of St. Athanasius in Bensonhurst walked up to the door Saturday evening only to find out they could not go in for Catholic mass because of the governor's decision to reduce worship capacity in red zone areas.

The church decided to close because its leaders say it's too hard to monitor the flow of traffic coming in and out when they are only allowed to have 10 people inside.

"It hurts me because we have not had one case here in the parish," church member Ginger Bivona told CBS2's Cory James. "We are doing everything right. Why the governor, the judge decided to close us down because of the zone."

"Well, it was disappointing, but we thought we had a good case and I think the judge who heard it said we had a good case. Three pages of his opinion were agreeing with us. Unfortunately, he felt that there was reasons why he could not do this," DiMarzio said.

"Does it hurt? It kills me to know that I can't go into my church and say, 'Dear god, I'm happy I'm here. Please heal what's going on,'" Bivona said.

Leaders say this will not deter them from their faith. Some say they will just start worshipping virtually again.


Restaurants have also been impacted by the recent rollbacks.

"It was getting better," said Bobby Chen, owner of Parc Oasis Oyster Bar in Borough Park.

But now it's getting worse. The increase in COVID cases has placed his neighborhood in the red zone, taking away indoor dining for his restaurant, which is struggling to stay open during the pandemic.

"We don't even have business right now. I mean, you're losing about 80%, 90% of your business," Chen said.

Loli Gjurra is also on edge. His Gravesend restaurant is not far from hot spot zip codes.

"The red zone is a few blocks away from us," he said. "It's very, very scary ... We're just trying to hang on for dear life at the moment."

They're bracing for what the city's second coronavirus shutdown will do.

"I mean, you try to do the best you can, but it's tough," Chen said.

Watch Jenna DeAngelis' report --

New York is monitoring six coronavirus clusters in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Broome, Orange and Rockland counties. The state has closed schools and nonessential businesses in those areas and limited gatherings.

According to the New York City sheriff, 13 summonses were issued Friday for violating mask and/or social distancing rules. Six were issued in yellow zones, three in orange zones and four in red zones.

Enforcement is being stepped up in Borough Park, in particular, where the tightest restrictions on coronavirus clusters in the city are in place.

Members of Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community had been protesting restrictions in the neighborhood all week. Demonstrations, at times, turned violent. Several perceived journalists were beaten.

Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted the decision to enforce shutdowns in certain areas was not based on politics or a double standard.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Overall, the number of New Yorkers hospitalized with the coronavirus continues to rise, Gov. Cuomo said Saturday.

Cuomo announced that 826 people were hospitalized with the virus — the highest number since July 15. State officials said eight New Yorkers died of the coronavirus on Friday.

Still, the governor insisted the "numbers remain good news," noting that public health officials traced 18% of positive tests this week to a so-called "red zone" that's home to 2.8% of the state population.

"It's going to take the work of all of us now to make sure we don't go backwards on our hard-fought progress," Cuomo said in a statement. "We must all continue to wear our masks, wash our hands, remain socially distant, and above all, stay New York Tough."

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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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