It’s a Lockdown: Cuomo Puts New York on ‘Pause’

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) — With 40% of the nation’s confirmed Covid-19 cases, the state of New York was put on an order Friday morning to stay home.

Framing the move as a “pause” rather than a lockdown, Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement hours after California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all 40 million residents of his state to stay at home, effective at midnight, except to meet essential needs. In the San Francisco Bay area, a six-county span, has already been sheltering in place since Monday.

A cyclist wears a mask Monday as he crosses New York’s Brooklyn Bridge. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

On Friday afternoon, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker followed suit by issuing a statewide stay-at-home order effective Saturday.

Cuomo said his directive takes effect “Sunday evening” with two rules: Only essential businesses will be functioning, and remain indoors to the greatest extent to protect physical and mental health.

Excluding essential services, like internet, water and grocery stores, 100% of the workforce must stay home.

“When I talk about the most drastic action we can take, this is the most drastic action we can take,” Cuomo said.

Stressing the seriousness of the situation, Cuomo promised enforcement and civil fines for noncompliant businesses.

“I’m not kidding about this,” he said, though he added the state is not planning to fine people individually.

For the most vulnerable groups — seniors over 70, immune-compromised people, and those with underlying illnesses — Cuomo said these populations must remain indoors, going outside only for solitary exercise.

“These are not helpful hints,” Cuomo said. “These provisions will be enforced.”

In addition to civil fines, any New York business not in compliance will face mandatory closure, Cuomo warned, as he urged vulnerable New Yorkers to pre-screen all visitors by taking their temperatures and not to visit households with multiple people.

In addition to saying that all vulnerable persons should wear a mask when in the company of others, Cuomo said everyone in the presence of vulnerable people should, to the greatest extent possible, wear a mask while also always staying at least 6 feet away from individuals.

“Your actions can affect my health, that is where we are,” Cuomo said.

As for public transportation, Cuomo said they should stay off unless urgent and absolutely necessary.

New York had slowly but surely been shuttering its public institutions — all schools closed Sunday, March 15, and bars, cafes and restaurants were ordered to close the following night, though they could offer delivery and takeout services. Museums and Broadway have been closed since last week. But de Blasio hemmed and hawed over whether to impose harsher restrictions, as Cuomo assured New Yorkers there were no plans in place to quarantine the city and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for a shelter-in-place order.

All week, Cuomo has taken issue with the phrasing of “shelter in place,” saying it smacks of warnings of a school shooter or nuclear war and that it could cause panic. His PAUSE acronym stands for “Policies that Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone.”

Cuomo said regional cooperation is important and that he would speak later today with his counterparts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware.

He also said he understands people will be upset by the decision, and that he accepts full responsibility.

“These actions will cause disruption,” Cuomo said. “They’ll cause businesses to close, they’ll cause employees to stay at home … they’ll cause much unhappiness. I understand that also.

“This is about saving lives,” he continued. “And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”

Cuomo said Friday morning that New York state has 7,102 positive coronavirus cases, including 4,408 in New York City. The state has tested 32,000 people, including 10,000 tests last night alone, putting it at the lead in the country both in testing and cases.

Washington has the second-highest number of positive cases with 1,376, followed by California with 1,044. Estimates broke Thursday that 56% of California residents will get the virus in the next eight weeks.

All casinos, gyms and movie theaters in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were forced to close Monday night until further notice, as the tristate area banned gatherings of 50 or more. Following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government updated its recommendation to limit groups larger than 10.

De Blasio foreshadowed the severe measures in a press conference Monday.

“Stay home as much as you can,” he had said. “That guidance might get a lot sharper at any point.”

Curfew and travel restrictions come with ramifications, the mayor warned Monday, but “every option, every tool is on the table.”

In a press conference the following day, he said all New Yorkers would start receiving alerts from the city on their cellphones.

In Illinois, Pritzker’s announcement came the same day health officials revealed that the state tallied a total of 585 cases across 25 counties in addition to five deaths, including a Cook County woman in her 70s on Friday.

The stay-at-home order is effective starting Saturday at 5 p.m. until April 7.

Lamenting that the spread of the novel coronavirus has forced hard decisions, Pritzker said he had surrounded himself with experts, asking them, “what action can I take to save the most lives?

“Well, they’ve come back with an answer,” the Democratic governor said. ““To avoid the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives, we must enact an immediate stay-at-home order for the state of Illinois.”

Pritzker based his decision in part on the way Covid-19 has ravaged Italy and China and took into account Illinois’ already overloaded health care system.

While regretting having to make a difficult decision that will disrupt people’s livelihoods, Pritzker stated that “ultimately you can’t have a livelihood if you don’t have a life.”

Essential services such as grocery stores, pharmacies and medical care facilities will remain open for the duration of Pritzker’s order, but all other nonessential businesses must stop operating as of Saturday evening.

Pritzker equivocated that “for the vast majority of you already taking precautions, your lives will not change very much,” but also drew some finer lines, saying “if you can work from home, you must. He noted that workers in essential areas such grocery stores must report to work because they are needed.

The governor said that while there is no desire to enforce the order for Illinois’ roughly 12.6 million residents individually, law enforcement will monitor for violations and enforce the stay-at-home order where necessary.

Friday’s order extends the closure of schools statewide until April 8. Pritzker had previously closed all the state’s schools through the end of March and banned gatherings of more than 50 people.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined Pritzker at Friday’s press conference in support of the stay-at-home order.

“Sadly,” Lightfoot said, “we are witnessing what is not happening around the world to countries that did not mobilize,” declaring the need for preventative and proactive plans rooted in science and data.

For Chicago specifically, Lightfoot stated that officials are finalizing quarantine locations, boosting hospital capacity, assisting health care workers as best as possible, and building a supply chain for ventilators and other critical supplies.

Lightfoot stressed, however, “this has to be a two-way street.”

The mayor of Illinois’ largest city conceded that while many are respecting the call for social distancing, many others are not and “it’s clear that the time is now for us to be very definitive in telling people that you must stay home.”

According to Lightfoot, Chicago’s trains will still run, the airports will be open and garbage collection will continue, but parks and libraries will all be closed effective at 5 p.m. Saturday.

“This is the new normal, for now,” Lightfoot said.

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