New York City

New York on PAUSE after Cuomo issues mandatory coronavirus shutdown

"This is not life as usual."

March 20, 2020 Mary Frost
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on Friday mandating sweeping restrictions on businesses and social life across New York State due to the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus. The order, which he dubbed “PAUSE” (Policies Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone) goes into effect Sunday evening.

“We’re going to take the ultimate step,” Cuomo said. Only essential businesses will be allowed to have employees working outside of the home, and all residents must remain indoors except for essential activities, he said.

“One hundred percent of the of the nonessential workforce must work from home,” the governor said. This order does not apply to essential businesses, which include health care services, mass transit, police, fire and emergency responders, banks, caregivers, grocery stores, pharmacies and the internet and utilities among other essential services, he said. “You have to go to the ATM and get money. But not like luxury services. You want a massage, that’s not essential.”

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There are currently no penalties planned for individuals who violate the order, only businesses. “This is not voluntary. There will be civil fines and there could be mandatory closure for businesses that don’t comply,” Cuomo warned.

The governor said the restrictions were necessary because of the acute shortage of hospital beds, medical protective supplies such as masks and gowns, and especially ventilators, coupled with an expected onslaught of patients with respiratory failure due to the virus.

“Ventilators are to this war what missiles were to WWII,” he said, declaring to manufactures that the state will pay a premium to businesses that have or can make the scarce devices.

“I’m increasing the mandates because the numbers are increasing. You have the density control valve. If the numbers start to go up, tighten the valve,” Cuomo told reporters.

To allow more businesses to work online, the state has asked internet providers to increase data capacity, and to do this at no charge, Cuomo said.

Noting that there was some disagreement from some other state officials on the tighter restrictions, Cuomo said, “This is a statewide order. I take full responsibility.”

Earlier Friday, Cuomo announced that hair salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors and other personal care services would be closed beginning Saturday at 8 p.m. to slow the spread of the virus. That order didn’t have time to go into effect before it was superseded by the more sweeping “PAUSE” order.

“This is not life as usual. Recognize it, accept it and deal with it,” Cuomo said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had warned New Yorkers on Tuesday that a “shelter-in-place” order similar to the one in effect in the Bay Area, and now throughout California, could be coming to New York City, a term that the governor quickly shut down.

“I believe communications are important and words are important,” Cuomo said Thursday, adding that the term shelter-in-place was more appropriate for an active shooter situation or, in past days, a nuclear disaster. “Say what you mean and don’t say what might alarm people,” he said.

He added that years from now he wants to be able to look back and say, “I did everything we could do.”

Individuals are still allowed to leave their homes for exercise, the governor said.

“You need to get out and get some fresh air? Sure, go out and take a walk,” Cuomo said, with the provision that exercise be solitary. “Run, hike. Not basketball.”

He also said that the state would stop evictions of residential or commercial tenants for 90 days, and noted that the deadline for filing federal taxes has been extended to July 15.

The strictest rules would apply to the most vulnerable: Seniors over the age of 70, immuno-compromised people and those with underlying illnesses. People in these groups must remain indoors with the exception of “solitary exercise.” They have been told to pre-screen all visitors and aides by taking their temperature, not to visit households with multiple people and to wear a mask when in the company of others. People in vulnerable categories must stay at least six feet away from others, and not take public transportation unless absolutely necessary, Cuomo said.

To the greatest extent possible, everyone in the presence of vulnerable people should wear a mask as well, the governor said.

For those who are not in the vulnerable group, another set of rules applies.

These include a ban on nonessential gatherings of any size for any reason, such as parties. At any essential gathering, social distancing must be in effect. This means staying at least six feet from others. Essential businesses must put in rules to maintain the six-feet standard. Outdoor recreation must be limited to non-contact activities. Commuters should limit the use of public transportation and must space themselves out by at least six feet. Sick people must not leave their homes except to go to medical appointments, and only after a telehealth appointment. Young people should try to limit their contact with vulnerable populations, even family members.

The governor said that as of Friday morning, there were 7,102 confirmed cases in New York State, an increase of 2,950 since yesterday. By far the greatest number of these are in New York City, with 4,408 cases, up 1,939 since yesterday. Some of the increase is due to increased testing, the governor said.

New York has the highest number of confirmed cases of the virus in the country. The closest second is Washington State, where there are 1,376 confirmed cases.

There have been 245,484 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, with 10,031 deaths.

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  1. The real story 13

    I work in a call center for blue cross in Middletown, N.Y. I often work from home but now they’re mandating I come in to a crowded office. How do I report a company forcing ppl to work against the shutdown order?