Brooklyn Boro

Coronavirus: New York City declares state of emergency

City may take testing into its own hands if Trump administration doesn’t give approval

March 12, 2020 Mary Frost
Mayor Bill de Blasio at a recent coronavirus press conference. Left is NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, and right is Dr. Raul Perea-Henze, deputy mayor for Health & Human Services. Photo: Mary Frost/Brooklyn Eagle
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New York City has declared a state of emergency because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, and sweeping changes to the city’s businesses and social life will go into effect.

Most gatherings of more than 500 people have been banned, the mayor said. Restaurants and bars will be restricted to 50 percent occupancy to allow more space between people. These new regulations will go into effect Friday, March 13th at 5 p.m., with the exception of Broadway theaters where the limits have already gone into effect. The announcement came following New York State’s declaration of a state of emergency.

Large theaters, the Metropolitan Opera, Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden and other large venues are among those closing. The Brooklyn Museum said it will also be closed starting Friday. Schools, hospitals, public buildings, mass transit, grocery stores and retail stores will not be affected.

“We’re not doing any of this lightly,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference late Thursday. “We know it will have a serious effect on businesses. It’s painful, and will be a huge dislocation for many people.”

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

As of late Thursday, there were 95 confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City, 42 of them new since yesterday.

“We’re on the verge of 100 cases. I believe we’ll be at 1,000 cases next week,” de Blasio said.

In explaining how the emergency order could play out, de Blasio said the order “allows a much deeper intervention into daily life … We are table-topping every potential of what could happen to this city.”

De Blasio read to reporters a list of the range of potential actions that could be invoked by executive order as needed, but cautioned reporters that most of the capabilities have not been activated, and would not be activated until conditions warranted. They include:

– A curfew;
– Regulating vehicles or individuals entering or leaving parts of the city;
– Closing public transportation and postponing election proceedings;
– Rationing supplies, prosecuting price gouging;
– Limiting the use of explosives and firearms;
– Prohibiting people on certain streets or public places;
– Closing public spaces;
– Creating emergency shelters and centers;
– Limiting maximum building occupancy.

NYC might bypass federal restrictions, take testing into its own hands

De Blasio slammed the federal government for its faulty roll out of coronavirus tests, and for refusing to allow New York City to carry out a necessary expansion of automated testing. “We want to do wide-scale testing but we can’t do it without the federal government.”

“If we had early testing, this might have been an entirely different trajectory,” de Blasio said. “Now with community spread, we see the growth … The city is in mitigation mode,” he said.

De Blasio warned that if the federal government continues to obstruct wide-scale testing, states and cities might rebel and take it into their own hands.

“There’s talk of localities taking matters into their own hands and it’s going to happen if the president doesn’t take action. And I wouldn’t blame them,” de Blasio said.

“I don’t know how many calls to the FDA we’ve made for approval,” de Blasio said. “This is, bluntly speaking, the administration’s last chance.”

He added, “We’re running out of time here. If we don’t have anywhere near the testing capacity we should have, we have to get creative here.”

Three priorities

De Blasio laid out the priorities of the city at this point in the spread of COVID-19.

“There are three things we want to preserve: schools, mass transit and the health care system. We’re falling back to the next line of defense. We want to protect those three things as much as possible.”

Of the 95 confirmed coronavirus cases, 25 are in Manhattan, 24 in Brooklyn, 17 in Queens, 10 in the Bronx and five in Staten Island. The mayor said that 29 people are in mandatory quarantine and 1,784 in voluntary quarantine.

Also on Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that only medically necessary visits will be allowed at nursing homes. This policy will be effective Friday at 5 p.m. The state is asking nursing homes to set up skyping and other online communication capacity so families can tele-visit.

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