New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking what he calls "the ultimate step" in his state's effort to stop the spread of a deadly coronavirus, signing an executive order "mandating that 100% of workforce must stay home, excluding essential services."
The order, which Cuomo announced Friday, excludes businesses such as pharmacies and grocery stores, along with essential services such as utilities and Internet providers.
"When I talk about the most drastic action we can take — this is the most drastic action we can take," Cuomo said.
In addition to the workforce order, all non-essential gatherings of individuals in New York state are now canceled — "of ANY size for ANY reason," Cuomo said via Twitter. The ban applies to any party, celebration or social event.
New York has confirmed more than 5,700 cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, making it by far the largest single source of the 14,250 cases now reported in the U.S. As of Friday, 38 people in the state had died from the respiratory disease. Nationwide, the coronavirus is blamed for killing at least 205 people. Experts warn that those categories will continue to rise, as testing becomes more widely available.
"The rate of increase in the number of cases portends a total overwhelming of our hospital system," Cuomo said.
New York is working to boost its number of hospital beds, which currently stands at around 50,000. To help ease the burden on the health system, the governor said, "We're planning to cancel all non-critical elective surgeries" — adding that the policy will likely be enacted next week.
"That will free up between 25%-35% of the existing hospital beds," Cuomo said.
In a bid to help people whose finances are hurt by the widespread disruptions from the coronavirus, Cuomo also said New York is instituting "a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants."
Cuomo's new workforce policy comes one day after he ordered all businesses in New York that rely on in-office personnel to cut their in-office staffing by 75%.
"I believe these policies will save lives. And I'm not willing to put a price on a human life," Cuomo said at a news conference late Friday morning.
The New York order is similar to escalating steps taken in California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered the state's 40 million residents to stay at home indefinitely to stop the virus from spreading.
As of noon ET Friday, Washington state had reported 1,376 coronavirus cases, and California had reported 1,030, according to a COVID-19 dashboard created by the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, which reports coronavirus numbers in near real time.
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