New York is banning all nonessential travel, mandating all nonessential businesses to close
ALBANY — New York is requiring its residents to stay at home to the maximum extent possible, banning nonessential travel and requiring all businesses to shutter if they do not fit specific criteria.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced the sweeping restrictions on movement in New York as the novel coronavirus spread through the state, with New York having the highest number of confirmed cases in the nation.
"We need everyone to be safe. Otherwise no one can be safe," Cuomo said.
He called it the "New York State on PAUSE" plan, and it takes effect 8 p.m. Sunday, banning all non-essential gatherings of individuals "of any size for any reason."
Mass transit will stay operational; food delivery and takeout services will stay open, as will other essential businesses, such as gas stations and grocery stores.
But all workers should stay home unless they fall into the list of essential businesses.
Cuomo was set to sign an executive order Friday afternoon putting the 10-point policy in place. He also laid out specific policies to follow to protect the elderly and the sick.
"When I talk about the most drastic we can take, this is the most drastic action we can take," he said.
The decision came as the number of confirmed cases soared to 7,100 in New York, up 2,950 in the past day. New York has about 40% of the cases nationwide.
What will the ban mean?
The order, Cuomo's office said, will ban any "concentration of individuals outside their home" except if it involves workers providing essential services.
The state urged people to practice social distancing of at least six feet from others, and any businesses open also have to follow the same protocol.
New Yorkers should also be expected to "limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact and avoid activities where they come in close contact with other people."
The order will also encourage people to limit use of public transportation to only when "absolutely necessary."
Sick individuals should not leave their home unless to receive medical care and only after a telehealth visit, the state said, and young people should "avoid contact with vulnerable populations."
What about the elderly?
Cuomo also announced "Matilda's Law" — named for his 88-year-old mother and former New York first lady, Matilda — that will aim to keep the elderly and vulnerable populations safe from the virus, offering many of the same requirements.
The order will mandate people over age 70 to stay home and limit home visitation to immediate family members or close friends in need of emergency assistance.
Otherwise, a visitor should get pre-screened by taking their temperature and checked to see if they have other flu-like symptoms. Individuals should wear a mask for the duration of the visit, Cuomo's office said.
The order will recommend the elderly only "go outside for solitary exercise."
Banning work from outside the home, except in certain cases
On Thursday, Cuomo had limited workers in the office to 75%, but said the surge in new confirmed coronavirus cases required a complete shutdown.
Essential workers fall in a series of categories, such as health-care workers, emergency responders, grocery-story employees, banking industry staff, sanitation workers and certain manufacturing professions.
The state is also ordering people to stay off the streets as much as possible.
Auto-repair shops, child-care services and even farmer's markets are allowed to stay open, as are skilled trade companies, such as plumbers and electricians, and animal-health centers.
There could be civil fines and mandatory closure if businesses that are required to comply do not close, though there were no plans as of Friday for any penalties for individuals.
The Democratic governor also put a moratorium on any evictions from apartments, homes or commercial properties for 90 days and eliminated fines and penalties for businesses who are on late on sales-tax payments this month.
"For some restaurants, this little bit of breathing room could mean the difference between paying employees and shutting their doors forever," Melissa Fleischut, president of the state Restaurant Association, said of the sales-tax reprieve.
Additional steps taken in New York
Everyone, Cuomo said, should simply stay indoors as much as possible and only go on "solitary exercise" outside.
"We need real diligence with the most vulnerable population," Cuomo said "This is not life as usual."
But Cuomo rejected the suggestion that the order is essentially a "shelter in place" mandate, saying the situation shouldn't be equated to a bomb threat.
The increase in confirmed cases came as New York's testing continued to increase.
The state has tested 32,000 people, including 10,000 tests over the past day. The percentage of those hospitalized with the illness was 18%, Cuomo said.
"Your actions can affect my health," he said. "That’s where we are."
The governor stressed the restrictions are his decision and apply statewide, saying he is acting in the best interest of public health and willing to accept blame from residents who think he is going too far.
"Just so we’re all clear: This is a statewide order," he said. "It is not what your county executive is doing, it’s not what your mayor is doing. It’s not what anyone else but me is doing, and I accept full responsibility."
Cuomo said he is concerned about a lack of medical supplies to help the sick in hospitals, and he has urged the federal government to provide more ventilators — saying an estimated 24,000 might be needed in New York.
He also asked companies to sell to the state any "personal protective equipment" such as gloves, masks and gowns they are not using.
Businesses can contact Simonida Subotic at 646-522 8477 or email@example.com.
He also encouraged companies to make the supplies themselves, and the state would provide aid 'to any company to obtain the proper equipment and personnel."
Businesses interested in receiving state funding to manufacture PPE products can contact Eric Gertler at 212-803-3100 or COVID19supplies@esd.ny.gov