James’ Transcripts Prove Cuomo’s Zones were Based on the Former Governor’s Whims: Not on Scienceby Yehudit Garmaise
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo often said, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, that he would “follow the science,” however, Hamodia reported that the color-coded shutdown zones the former governor announced on Oct. 6, 2020, did not actually follow specific health metrics, just-released transcripts revealed that Health Department employee told investigators last spring.
The transcripts were released by Attorney General Letita James, whose investigation publicly revealed many of the former governor’s wrongdoings on Aug. 3, which led to his resignation just one week later.
Just as was suspected by the Jewish communities who felt unfairly targeted by Cuomo’s strange zone system, a Health Department employee claimed that areas would be designated as zones, not by health metrics: but by then-Gov. Cuomo himself.
“The zones were very complicated,” said the anonymous employee, who was interviewed by investigators who were examining allegations of Cuomo’s misconduct. “There were metrics that our staff would work on, but they would only be announced that people met the metrics if that came from the [Governor’s] Chamber.
“Some areas met the metrics and would be called ‘a zone,’ and others met the metrics but would not be called ‘a zone.’”
When lawyer Avi Schick, who, almost one year ago, successfully argued in the U.S. Supreme Court, against the lack of even-handed treatment of New Yorkers’ neighborhoods and activities, read James’ transcripts, he said that “they prove what we have known all along: that the metrics and zones used to target our neighborhoods and shutter our shuls were the product of politics, and not science.”
After working ceaselessly since Chol HaMoed Sukkos of 2020, Schick, of the Troutman Sanders law firm, first claimed victory late at night on Nov. 26, 2020, when the Supreme Court made a precedent-setting ruling in favor of religious freedoms.
After Cuomo announced his zones and set 10-person limits in shuls, while allowing bike and liquor stores to operate without restriction, Schick argued in court that “there was no basis to treat shuls and davening more harshly than conduct, such as office work and shopping,”
The Supreme Court responding by ruling that 10 and 25-person limits in shuls in red and orange zones were likely not neutral or generally applicable because essential businesses, and also some non-essential businesses, were not subject to the same restrictions.
On Dec. 18, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Cuomo’s restrictions on shuls eliminated Jews’ ability to worship during the High Holidays, and that none of the restrictions were necessary to protect public health.
Furthermore, the court found that former Gov. Cuomo’s zones devalued congregating for religious, rather than for non-religious reasons, as was evidenced in various activities that were allowed: all throughout the city and state.
A month later, on Dec. 28, the same court issued a ruling that declared that the red zones “discriminated against religion on its face.”
Photo Credit: Gowanus Canal