New Yorkers Told to Don Face Masks for Shopping or Within 6 Feet of Others

NYPD will enforce compliance with the shopping order, while the mask requirement for close quarters applies statewide.

Pedestrians wear face masks Tuesday to protect against the coronavirus as they walk their dog in front of closed shops on Roosevelt Avenue, in Corona neighborhood of Queens, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

MANHATTAN (CN) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an executive order Wednesday mandating all New Yorkers wear masks or mouth and nose coverings when they cannot stay 6 feet away from others, in order to limit the spread of Covid-19. The order will take effect Saturday, April 18. 

“If you’re going to be in public, and you cannot maintain social distancing, then have a mask,” Cuomo said this afternoon at a daily press briefing in Albany.

A few hours earlier, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recommended face coverings for people in the grocery store and said the NYPD would enforce compliance. At least 30 grocery workers have died of Covid-19, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Guidance on masks for U.S. civilians has shifted confusingly in recent months, but the most updated information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says face coverings can help prevent asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19. 

Cuomo said Wednesday that, as the world waits for a Covid-19 vaccine, he’s hopeful there will be treatment breakthroughs, such as the use of so-called convalescent plasma, blood donations from those who have recovered from the virus. 

In the meantime, too, Cuomo repeated, the U.S. will need to conduct widespread diagnostic and antibody testing, for which it currently does not have capacity. 

The New York State Department of Health announced last week that it had developed its own antibody test — the presence of which suggest a person has been exposed to the novel coronavirus and might have some immunity. 

An antibody test kit is seen at a drive-thru testing site in Hempstead, N.Y., on Tuesday. The test, being administered by Somos Community Care, takes approximately 15 minutes. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Cuomo announced that the state will begin conducting 2,000 finger-prick antibody tests per day starting this week. New York has also asked the Food and Drug Administration for expedited approval on a finger-prick antibody test that would allow for testing of up to 100,000 New Yorkers a day. 

While de Blasio spoke of producing the physical test kit parts in New York City, Cuomo’s administration wants to increase testing capacity in labs, and says it’s working with the city on that. 

On top of the strained supply chain, Cuomo said, the federal, state and local governments, as well as private companies, are all trying to buy tests.

“All that volume is descending on these private-sector testing companies that never anticipated this tremendous volume,” he said Wednesday.

“It is what ventilators was,” he said, comparing the current demand for tests to New York’s mad dash in recent weeks to acquire thousands more ventilators for the critically ill in its hospital systems. 

As New York slowly gets a handle on its Covid-19 spread, Cuomo announced the state would send 100 ventilators to Michigan and 50 to Maryland. 

For the state to move forward, Cuomo also called for an “army of tracers,” meaning contact tracers who track down every person with whom someone with the virus came into contact. States will need massive federal assistance with these efforts, he said. 

As for “un-pausing,” or slowly emerging from the stay-at-home order he called “New York on pause,” Cuomo said businesses will need to determine how essential their services or products are, and the risk of infection spread at the business — whether workers toil in close physical proximity to others, for example. 

Statewide, Covid-19 numbers are still high but essentially flat, indicating the epidemic in New York is plateauing — as Cuomo put it Wednesday, “the terrible news has basically been flat.” 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at his daily press conference Wednesday, April 15, calling for more diagnostic and antibody tests to help slowly reopen the economy after widespread Covid-19-related shutdowns.

There were 752 deaths Tuesday, Cuomo said, 707 in hospitals and 45 in nursing homes. The state’s production of nursing home data is new. 

In the city’s briefing Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio announced a $170 million initiative to make sure all New Yorkers have food during the crisis. He estimated the city will have served 10 million meals in April and expects to provide between 10 million and 15 million in May.

De Blasio said the city will register entire buildings of senior citizens run by the New York City public housing authority, or NYCHA; the city’s department of Housing Preservation and Development; and nonprofits. New York state has a pending application with U.S. Department of Agriculture for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Benefits related to the pandemic are known as PSNAP.

De Blasio also answered questions on the city’s new death toll, which shot up dramatically to over 10,000 yesterday as New York began including over 3,700 “presumed” Covid 19 deaths. 

New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said Wednesday the new numbers are “reflective of what we have been directing New Yorkers to do,” which is stay home if you have symptoms unless they get so bad you need medical attention. 

“We do see a significant number of individuals who are dying outside of hospitals and emergency departments,” she said. 

It’s not yet clear how many New Yorkers have died of preventable causes that are not directly related to Covid-19, such as a stroke at home, but for whom treatment was delayed because of the pandemic’s overall impact on the city’s healthcare system.

De Blasio maintained that emergency service workers in the city did a great job prioritizing and saving lives in life-and-death cases. The No. 1 priority, de Blasio said Wednesday, was to “hold and preserve and protect the hospital system.” But the city will continue to analyze the data, officials said.

Two of NYC’s three key virus-control numbers were up again as of Wednesday, though there is a lag in the data of 48 hours. Hospital admissions and the number of patients in city intensive care units were both up, while the number of people in the city who received Covid-19 tests and tested positive dropped to 54% from 60% in the April 12 data.

%d bloggers like this: