By Maya Brown and Alek Lewis
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered 100% of non-essential work forces to stay home during a coronavirus (COVID-19) briefing on Friday, March 20.
This is the state’s most dramatic measure yet, as the number of confirmed cases jumped from 4,152 on Thursday afternoon to 7,102 on Friday morning. The additional 2,950 cases were due to a rapid increase in testing, according to Cuomo.
On March 18, a similar order from Cuomo applied to 50% of the non-essential work force. The following day it rose to 75%. Essential businesses and establishments include shipping, media, warehousing, grocery and food production, pharmacies, healthcare providers, utilities, banks and related financial institutions.
Effective Saturday, March 21 at 8 p.m., all barbershops, hair and nail salons, tattoo or piercing parlors and related personal care services will be closed to members of the public, according to Cuomo’s announcement. These services cannot be provided while maintaining social distance.
Thus far, Cuomo has also mandated that all movie theaters, gyms and casinos close; restaurants and bars are allowed delivery and takeout service only.
“These provisions will be enforced,” Cuomo said at the briefing. “These are not helpful hints.”
Businesses that are not compliant may receive civil fines and mandatory closure, and groups that are found violating the new orders will be broken up.
“I am not kidding about this,” Cuomo said. “The numbers are going up at such a rate that’s more than double the capacity than the hospital system.”
“This is not life as usual. Accept it. Realize it. And deal with it,” Cuomo said. “The only option available to us is to reduce the spread and the rate of the spread.”
Cuomo stressed the importance of increased hospital capacity to prepare for an overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients. He said that the Army Corp of Engineers are mobilizing to build temporary hospital beds and are considering some State University of New York and City University of New York campuses, including Stony Brook University, as potential sites.
In an effort to increase bed space, the government will also order hospitals to stop all non-critical elective surgeries next week, according to Cuomo.
During a White House briefing from the coronavirus task force following Cuomo’s announcement, Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director said he strongly supports his actions.
“Please cooperate with your governor, cooperate with your mayor. It’s very important,” he said.
Cuomo enacted even stricter rules for seniors over 70, people with compromised immune systems and people with underlying illnesses. Vulnerable groups are ordered to remain indoors, avoid visiting households with multiple people and require pre-screening for all visitors and healthcare aides by taking their temperature.
Suffolk County allocated specific grocery store shopping hours for senior citizens in order to keep at risk populations as healthy as possible.
“These actions will cause disruption. They will cause much unhappiness,” Cuomo said. “Just so we’re clear, this is a state-wide order. It’s not what your county executive or what your mayor is doing. It’s not what anyone else but me is doing. I accept full responsibility.”