Andrew Cuomo headshot, as New York Governor, graphic element on gray
FILE - New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo.

NEW YORK - New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo warned Thursday that misinformation and fear related to the coronavirus are in many ways “more dangerous than the virus.”   

“We now have misinformation and fear and panic which is as contagious or more contagious than the virus,” the governor told reporters. “We have to deal with both of them.”   

Police and U.S. Military personnel work amid a line of cars of people arriving for testing at a new drive-thru coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing center in the Staten Island borough of New York City, New York, March 19, 2020.

Cuomo said clear and consistent communication from the media, healthcare professionals and elected officials is necessary as efforts continue to slow and stop the spread of the potentially deadly respiratory virus.   

As of Thursday, the governor said the state has nearly 7,600 confirmed cases. New York City has the largest concentration of positive cases — 3,337.   

While the numbers jump daily, the governor cautioned that there are more positive cases because the state is ramping up its testing capacity — from 200 tests per day at the start of the crisis to 7,500 a day now.   

A man walks out of a McDonald's restaurant with his bag of food in the Brooklyn borough of New York, where the seating area has been cordoned off to its customers and only take out is available, March 18, 2020.

“There are thousands and thousands of people who have the virus, who we are not testing,” Cuomo said. “There are thousands and thousands of people who had the virus before we started testing. There are and thousands and thousands of people who had the virus and who have resolved and never knew they had the virus.”   

He cautioned people not to treat the numbers like stock market indicators and to look at them in context.   

New York state’s governor also announced he is tightening a restriction put in place a day before intended to lessen the density of people outside their homes. Instead of 50% of workforce being allowed to be on site, Cuomo said he is reducing that to 25%. There are exceptions for essential services, including grocery stores, pharmacies and shipping companies.   

As thousands of people are in fear for their jobs, Cuomo announced measures to absorb some of the social impact of income loss.   

Across New York state there will be 90-day mortgage relief for persons who have been impacted by the virus and cannot meet their payments. No homes will be foreclosed on by banks, and fees will be waived for credit cards and at cash machines.   

A pedestrian wearing a surgical mask and gloves walks past the New York Stock Exchange on March 19, 2020, in New York.

The governor likened the situation the state is facing to the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.   

“It’s a moment that just changes your whole life,” he said. “Yesterday, you were going to work, and you were going to the office party; today you’re at home, and the kids are at home, and you are worried about health, and you are worried about your job, and you’re worried about economics, and you are dealing with personal issues, and you are dealing with family issues -- and it is all happening at once.”   

He said he cannot tell New Yorkers how long this will continue and that the change and disruption “will change almost everything going forward.” 

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