NYC to increase social-distancing 'ambassadors' to fight coronavirus spread

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New York City will be adding over 1,000 non-police "social distancing ambassadors" to enforce the rules in the coming weeks, the mayor announced, after some critics hit back at the NYPD's response.

"This team of public servants will be tasked with educating New Yorkers on the importance of social distancing and distributing masks for free all across the city," Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said of the new ambassadors.

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De Blasio also said in an online media briefing Sunday that there will be an uptick in city volunteers by next weekend, from around 1,000 to 2,300.

Some law-enforcement officials themselves have complained about the push for social-distance policing after the coronavirus pandemic started slamming the city, but officers have received backlash in recent weeks after a slew of events highlighted police tactics which the mayor deemed "unacceptable." Some social-media videos helped fuel the controversy; one showed police slamming a black suspect to the ground for talking back to a cop, and another showed an officer punching a man in the head as he was pinned to a sidewalk.

Also, New York City police department data released Friday showed that of the 374 summonses issued through May 5 for violating distancing orders, 52 percent were given to black people and 30 percent to Hispanic people. The mayor said those statistics showed "something's wrong." He pledged more training and clearer protocols for officers.

"More and more, the emphasis will be on a communicative, encouraging approach," de Blasio said of the new ambassadors throughout the city, adding that ticketing "will still be there when needed."

He also said that enforcement of the rules needed to be done "fairly and consistently in all communities."

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In addition, some in the Hasidic Jewish community cried foul over the response from police and the mayor to a large public funeral of a Brooklyn rabbi in April attended by hundreds of people, breaking with the city's restrictions on gatherings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.