New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a state-wide “stay at home” executive order for all residents Friday, the strictest measure yet to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus for the nation’s largest city.
“This is not life as usual,” he said. “Remain indoors, go outside for solitary exercise. Don’t go to a house with multiple people. Don’t go to your daughter’s house. That is a mistake.”
There are at least 4,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York City and 26 deaths, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday morning.
“We now constitute 30 percent of the coronavirus cases in the United States of America, 70 percent of the cases in the state of New York,” he said on MSNBC on Friday. “We have to take really intense, radical action right away.”
Cuomo said Friday that there are 7,102 confirmed cases statewide—and about 1,250 people are hospitalized. That’s around 40 percent of the nationwide total of at least 12,000, according to The New York Times, despite New York having 6 percent of the country’s population.
Cuomo said the order meant non-essential gatherings of any size could not take place for New York’s 19 million residents. All non-essential businesses must close their businesses and 100 percent of their employees must work from home. When in public, people should stay at least six feet away from others.
Outdoor recreation and exercise is permitted but must be solitary. “It’s running and hiking. It’s not playing basketball with five other people. It’s not playing in the park with 10 other people and sharing a beer,” he said.
Those who don’t comply will be subject to “civil fines,” Cuomo said. “When I talk about the most drastic action we can take, this is the most drastic action we can take,” he added.
The order comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom implemented a similar lockdown on the state’s 40 million residents on Wednesday to prevent the state’s medical system from being overwhelmed. While not enforced by police, the order instructs residents to stay home indefinitely and go outside only for essential jobs, errands, and exercise.
The San Francisco Bay Area implemented a “shelter in place” order in six counties on Tuesday. It stipulated that residents should not leave their homes unless it was for five “essential” activities: tasks essential to the health and safety of people or pets, obtaining necessary supplies like groceries, exercising, taking care of a family member or pet in another household, or traveling to work at an essential business. People who are at high risk of severe illness or are already sick are ordered to stay at home.
Friday’s announcement marked the latest in precautionary actions taken by Cuomo to combat the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, the New York governor announced he would suspend mortgage payments for three months and waive overdraft fees on ATMs and credit cards.
“This is a real-life benefit,” he said. “People are under tremendous economic pressure. Making a mortgage payment can be one of the No. 1 stressors. Eliminating that stressor for 90 days, I think, will go a long way.”
To further promote social distancing, Cuomo announced Thursday non-essential businesses must have 75 percent of their normal workforce at home. In an executive order, the government also listed dozens of categories exempt from the scale-down, such as research labs, shipping warehouses, banks, transportation services, and essential services and producers that are “providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations.”
Several “non-essential” businesses have also been ordered to close on Saturday, including nail and hair salons, barbershops, and tattoo parlors, to continue to “reduce density” and slow the coronavirus spread.
De Blasio said in a Wednesday morning interview with NBC’s Today that “people have to realize at this point that this disease is going to put many, many people, thousands and tens of thousands of people’s lives in danger and we’re going to have to do things very differently.”
De Blasio and Cuomo had publicly battled over the need to implement a “shelter in place” order. De Blasio said Tuesday that New Yorkers “should be prepared right now for the possibility of a shelter-in-place order” within 48 hours.
Cuomo, however, asserted that any such order would “require state action” and that there is “no consideration of that for any locality at this time.”
On Wednesday, de Blasio called for military assistance to combat the spread of the virus in the city, saying that it has “extraordinary medical capacity” that is “needed in places like New York right now.”
Cuomo announced Wednesday that the 1,000-bed U.S. Navy Ship Comfort, which had previously been deployed to assist wounded U.S. military troops and hurricane survivors, was being sent to New York Harbor to accommodate an expected increase in coronavirus cases.
On Friday, Cuomo also stressed New York’s need for medical supplies—including face masks, gloves, and ventilators—and hospitals are nearing capacity. To ensure health-care professionals have the equipment they need, Cuomo urged other “businesses to get creative… If you can make them, we will give you funding to do it.”
“Ventilators are to this war what missiles were to World War II,” Cuomo said, stressing the supplies are the state's “greatest need” and the government is willing to “pay a premium for these products.”
Talking about the mental-health implications of a state-wide pause, Cuomo said he knows the extreme measure will be difficult and cause a sense of isolation but he hopes those in the community reach out to one another during this unusual situation.
“People are in a small apartment, they are in a house. They are worried and anxious—just be mindful of that,” Cuomo said, encouraging New Yorkers to reach out to one another. “We are all in quarantine now. I mean think about it, we are all in various levels of quarantine and it’s hard.”
Cuomo also said he is going to stop any evictions of any residential or commercial tenants for three months to further alleviate the economic and social burden of the pandemic.