Cuomo Orders 100% of Nonessential N.Y. Workforce to Stay Home

Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered New Yorkers to stay at home for the foreseeable future, after days of conflict with Mayor Bill de Blasio over whether such an extreme measure needed to be taken to arrest the spread of coronavirus.

The move follows a similar order by California’s Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday, leaving only limited businesses allowed to operate and requires people to remain home other than going outside for exercise.

As the state’s death toll reached 35, Cuomo said the new orders would go in place late Sunday and exempt services including public transit and grocery stores. Banks and food delivery are also categorized as essential.

“This is the most drastic action we can take,” he said.

He said New Yorkers should stay indoors and shouldn’t take public transportation unless necessary. The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 rose to 7,102, adding 2,950 since Thursday. New York City added 1,939 cases, to 4,408. The state has the highest infection rate in the nation.

The new order has the force of law, Cuomo said. “They will be enforced,” he said. There will be a fine for businesses that don’t comply, but not for individuals.

The rules are being adopted to protect the state’s most vulnerable population, including seniors over 70 and people with existing health problems, the governor said.

Part of the dispute between Cuomo and de Blasio had to do with semantics. The governor has said he abhors the term “shelter in place,” because it first became commonly used as a strategy to stay alive during a nuclear attack, and more recently during an active shooter situation in a school.

On Friday, he said, “It’s not a shelter in place order,” he said, and referred to California’s order, known as “stay at home.

“Words matter. California does not have a shelter in place order. They put in a new policy. It is not shelter in place,” he said. “People are scared and people panic.”

Cuomo said the rise in positive diagnoses had prompted the tighter restrictions.

“You look at these numbers and you understand why. Sixteen days ago we were at zero,” he said “Those numbers are why we are taking those actions. Just increase that curve and you will see it more than doubles our health care system’s capacity. It more than triples the number of ICU beds with ventilators that we could possibly arrange. That’s why we are taking these actions.”

Under the order, seniors and people with health conditions must remain indoors, prescreen all visitors and shouldn’t visit households with multiple people. Anyone visiting should wear a mask. Older New Yorkers shouldn’t take public transportation unless it’s urgent and absolutely necessary, Cuomo said.

— With assistance by Christian Berthelsen

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