ALBANY - New York is requiring its residents to stay at home to the maximum extent possible, banning nonessential travel and requiring all businesses to shutter if they do not fit specific criteria.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced the sweeping ramp up of restrictions on movement in New York as the novel coronavirus spread through the state, with New York having the highest number of confirmed cases in the nation.
He called it the "New York State on Pause" plan, and it takes effect Sunday evening. Mass transit will stay operational; food delivery and takeout services will stay open.
"This is the most drastic action we can take," Cuomo said at a briefing at the state Capitol.
The decision came as the number of confirmed cases soared to 7,100 in New York, up 2,950 in the past day.
The executive order Cuomo plans to sign will mandate 100% of the workforce must stay home, excluding essential services. The order excludes pharmacies, grocery stores and other businesses deemed "essential".
On Thursday, Cuomo had limited workers in the office to 75%.
The state is also ordering people to stay off the streets as much as possible, and ordering nonessential business to shutter. There could be civil fines and mandatory closure if businesses do not comply, though there were no plans as of Friday for any penalties for individuals.
He also put a moratorium on any evictions from apartments, homes or commercial properties for 90 days and eliminated fines and penalties for businesses on late sales-tax payments this month.
"For some restaurants, this little bit of breathing room could mean the difference between paying employees and shutting their doors forever," Melissa Fleischut, president of the state Restaurant Association, said of the sales-tax reprieve.
Cuomo's actions installed a series of stronger orders on vulnerable populations, such as requiring any visitors to have have their temperature taken before entering.
Everyone, Cuomo said, should simply stay indoors as much as possible and only go on "solitary exercise" outside.
"We need real diligence with the most vulnerable population," Cuomo said "This is not life as usual."
But Cuomo rejected the suggestion that the order is essentially a "shelter in place" mandate, saying the situation shouldn't be equated to a bomb threat.
Instead, he said, people need to avoid contact with others as much as possible, such as staying six feet away from others known as "social distancing" and to not visit households with multiple people.
The increase in confirmed cases came as New York's testing continued to increase.
The state has tested 32,000 people, including 10,000 tests over the past day. The percentage of those hospitalized with the illness was 18%, Cuomo said.
"Your actions can affect my health," he said. "That’s where we are."
The Democratic governor stressed that the statewide restrictions are his decision and apply statewide, saying he is acting in the best interest of public health and willing to accept blame from residents who think he is going too far.
"Just so we’re all clear: This is a statewide order," he said. "It is not what your county executive is doing, it’s not what your mayor is doing. It’s not what anyone else but me is doing, and I accept full responsibility."