ALBANY – New York will extend its stay-at-home order through May 15, a move that will keep nonessential businesses and schools closed at least until then, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
New York's PAUSE order, first issued March 22 and extended last week, was scheduled to expire April 29 as the state continues to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
But Cuomo announced Thursday he would extend the order for a second time, arguing it is necessary to protect against a second surge of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Other northeastern states will also be extending their closure orders, the Democratic governor said.
Cuomo's announcement came as the state's death toll surpassed 12,000 after 606 who tested positive for the disease died Wednesday.
But the state's hospitalization rate continued to show signs that the curve was flattening: There were about 17,700 people hospitalized for COVID-19 on Wednesday. That was down from over 18,000 each of the several days prior.
On Thursday, Cuomo said he was unsure how long the state's stay-at-home order will remain in effect. Any decision to lift it will be based on data, he said.
"I don't want to project beyond that period," Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus briefing. "That's about one month. One month is a long time. People need certainly and clarity so they can plan. I need a coordinated action plan with the other states."
Under the PAUSE order, all nonessential businesses are required to close all in-person operations. Those employers cannot require their workers to report to work in person, though they can work remotely.
The order also prohibits all gatherings — parties, events and the like — from taking place, while New York residents are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible unless they are making an essential trip or exercising at a safe social distance.
Schools will also remain closed while the PAUSE order is in effect.
Cuomo credited the shutdown order with "flattening the curve." At their height, the projections the state relied on suggested the state could need as many as 110,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients — a number that has not nearly come to fruition.
"New York PAUSE has worked," Cuomo said. "The closedown has worked. That's how we controlled the beast."
Cuomo issued a separate order Wednesday requiring those in New York to wear a mask or face covering in public when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance.
On Thursday, Cuomo said he would expand that order to require anyone riding public transit or riding in a for-hire vehicle such as a taxi to cover their face.
Public transit operators and taxi drivers will also be required to wear a mask, he said.
"If you get on the bus, you need to wear a mask," Cuomo said. "If you get on a train, you need to wear a mask.“