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NY Gov. Cuomo Orders The Wearing Of Masks

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking April 15, 2020.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking April 15, 2020.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is issuing an executive order beginning on Friday to require every New Yorker to wear masks in public when it’s not possible to practice social distancing. The governor says the virus claimed 752 lives Tuesday, but the rate of hospitalizations may have already peaked.

The governor says the order, which will be effective in three days requires that all New Yorkers when out in public wear masks or scarves or bandannas, that cover their nose and mouth when it’s not possible to practice social distancing.   

“Put the mask on,” Cuomo said. “You’re right to go out for a walk in the park…fine, but don’t infect me. You don’t have a right to infect me.”   

He says for now, there will be no civil penalties or fines for not wearing a mask, but will consider doing so if people don’t comply.

Cuomo also delivered some good news about the coronavirus Wednesday, saying that the rate of hospitalizations may be past the apex, and on the decline with 18,335 New Yorkers in the hospital on Tuesday. But he says the death toll, at 752 on Tuesday, may be even higher, as the state will now be counting probable deaths from COVID-19.   

New York City began using the new CDC guidelines to include in their count those who may have died from the virus, but did not go to a hospital. That put the city’s death toll from the pandemic at over 10,000 people. 

Cuomo says New York state will now be going back and recounting, to include those who likely died from the coronavirus but did not go to a hospital or were unable to get a test.

Cuomo says while he is eager to restart the economy, no one should expect that things will go back to the way they were before the pandemic. He says it will be a gradual reopening with many safety precautions.   

The governor says criteria will include how essential the business is, and how high risk the business is for spread of infection. He says companies can make adjustments to make their workplaces safer, when they are allowed to reopen.  

“Businesses can start to redesign their workplace,” said Cuomo.     

But Cuomo says a phased reopening won’t be safe without more testing and contact tracing. He says there are lots of testing obstacles, including not enough equipment like swabs and vials. He says test kits are made by private companies and involve an international supply chain. 

The governor says only the federal government can bring testing “to scale,” the states cannot do it on their own, and he urged the Trump administration to act.  

In the meantime, New York is seeking FDA approval for a finger prick antibody test, that could test up to 100,000 people a day, that the governor says will be  prioritized for health care workers.

Cuomo says nothing will be truly safe until there’s a vaccine, in 12 to 18 months.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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