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Cuomo Closes Businesses To Combat Coronavirus

Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking at a press conference today.
Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking at a press conference today.

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have made the joint decision to close all bars and restaurants in the three states to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.  Governor Andrew Cuomo says all schools in New York State will be closed by Wednesday, and the New York state legislature has postponed its session.

The three governors made the joint decision to close all restaurants and bars in their states effective Monday evening until further notice. There will still be take-out service for restaurants that want to stay open, and rules will be waived to allow take out alcohol services as well. 

All movie theaters, gyms and casinos will also close as of 8 p.m. on March 16. 

And all gatherings of 50 or more people will be prohibited.  

“So if you were hoping to plan a graduation party, you can’t do it in the state of New York, you can’t go do it in the state of New Jersey and you can’t do it in the state of Connecticut,” Cuomo said.  

Governor Cuomo says all schools will be closed by the end of March 16 for at least two weeks. Most districts have already made the decision to close down. 

Workers at all state and local government offices will be asked to work from home, unless they are providing essential services. And all government offices must reduce their density by at least 50%.  

Cuomo says he continues to be worried about a surge of sick patients in the coming weeks that will overwhelm the state’s hospital system.

He says, because of the lack of federal action on building extra hospital capacity, he’s asking the state’s National Guard to work with developers in the state and the union workforce to identify buildings such as dormitories or former nursing homes that can be rapidly converted to temporary hospitals. 

“I’m asking local governments, especially in the most dense areas, to immediately identify a number of beds in facilities that are available,” said Cuomo. "Frankly, I hope there is surplus because this is very expensive and I don't want to pay money for acquisition of property and real estate."

The governor is also rescinding rules on placement of hospital beds for the time being, allowing more beds into a single room, and reducing regulations on how wide hallways need to be.   

The legislature had planned to come to the Capitol this week to pass some bills to help deal with the crisis, including paid sick leave, but after two lawmakers came down with the virus, the Assembly and Senate announced that they are postponing session until at least Wednesday. 

Both houses says they are trying to adhere to the guidelines by the CDC and now the state of New York that gatherings be limited to 50 or fewer people, and only want to bring in legislators when they are ready for a vote on agreed upon bills.  

Tentative plans in the Assembly were to have lawmakers vote 10 at a time, in the chamber, then return to their offices.  

Governor Cuomo, who has compared the Senators and Assembly members to “soldiers” in a war who should remain at their desks, says he’s disappointed that the lawmakers aren’t acting on a paid sick leave bill sooner. He says the state bill goes further than the federal measure, and would also cover people home on preventive quarantine even if they are not actually sick.  

“I’m sure the people who are on quarantine and wanted to get paid wish they’d voted for the bill,” Cuomo said. “So they could get paid.” 

But the governor says he’s “OK” with waiting until Wednesday for the votes.  

Cuomo continues to say that a full state spending plan can be approved, and it could still include legal marijuana, rollbacks to the bail reform laws that ended most forms of cash bail in New York, and restrictions on vaping products. But that prospect seems increasingly unlikely now. The governor admits the anticipated additional health care costs associated with combating the virus will make it almost impossible to balance the budget right now. 

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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