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Coronavirus 'Containment Area' Created Around N.Y. Cluster

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We're going to visit two U.S. communities this morning - opposite sides of the country, both struggling to contain the coronavirus. We'll go to Washington state in a moment, but we begin in New Rochelle, N.Y., just north of New York City. A synagogue there is at the center of a major cluster of COVID-19 infections, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo designated the area within a 1-mile radius of the synagogue a containment area, and the National Guard has been deployed. There are also restrictions on visiting nursing homes since elderly people are so at risk. Rita Mabli runs a facility in the area. She told our reporter yesterday that families are upset about not being allowed to see their loved ones.

RITA MABLI: We do have some families that are very angry at not being able to visit Mother or Father. And I understand that, and I so empathize with that.

GREENE: OK. On the line with me right now is New Rochelle's Mayor Noam Bramson. Mayor, thank you so much for taking a few minutes for us.

NOAM BRAMSON: Good morning.

GREENE: How hard are things in your city right now? And how are people coping?

BRAMSON: Well, obviously, there's a great deal of concern. People are concerned for their own health, the health of their families and their neighbors. For those who are subject to quarantine, there's an additional burden, a significant disruption in their lives - not able to go to work, not able to go to school, not able to have normal interactions with their neighbors. And as a result of the announcement made yesterday, which involves a number of public and private school closures, the ripple effect is larger - many more families who are impacted and have to adjust as a consequence.

But at the same time, I would say that the concern has been proportionate to the issues before us. It has not exceeded past that level or strayed into unjustified panic or hysteria. People are taking information from public health professionals and following that guidance, being supportive of each other, being supportive of their neighbors. And I feel confident that, as difficult as this is, we will rise to the occasion and get through it.

GREENE: Can you just tell me how this containment zone is working? My understanding is that a lot of businesses are closed, but people are allowed to leave their homes. It's not that restrictive.

BRAMSON: So I'm glad you're asking the question because there's actually a great deal of confusion about that.

GREENE: Yeah.

BRAMSON: The containment zone, which is - has a 1-mile radius in the area with the greatest concentration of the virus outbreak, is really just a restriction on large gatherings within that area. So it has an effect on major institutions like schools and houses of worship, which have to curtail their normal activities, but it does not in any way apply to individuals, to families, to specific businesses. It's not as though people are prohibited from entering or leaving the zone. It's not a quarantine zone. It's not an exclusion zone. It is simply a function of limiting large gatherings in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.

GREENE: Well, what is your advice to your residents when it comes to should they go outside? To what extent can they try and continue leading a normal life, despite whatever risk there is?

BRAMSON: Well, we have to remember the virus is not like a cloud that lingers around a whole neighborhood. It is passed through close contact between individuals. And so some social distancing is, obviously, sensible, particularly if you are a senior citizen or if you have a compromised immune system or a respiratory condition. But if you are a healthy adult, then I think continuing to participate in the life and commerce of our community is a sensible decision. The county executive and I a few days ago made a point of eating lunch out at a kosher Asian restaurant that is right in the heart of this neighborhood, and we did so with great confidence that our health will just be fine.

So we all have to calibrate our responses so that it is appropriate for the circumstances that we face. We want to make sure that we do not take unreasonable risks, but if we go overboard in risk avoidance, then that creates its own problems. And so a balanced approach is really what's called for.

GREENE: Mayor, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it. That's New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson speaking to us this morning. Mayor, thanks.

BRAMSON: Glad to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.