NEW YORK - New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is ordering non-essential businesses to move workers completely to telework by late Sunday, in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus in his state.
“This is not voluntary,” the governor told reporters Friday. “We are going to monitor it; there will be civil fines. There can be mandatory closures for businesses that do not comply. I am not kidding about this.”
New York has moved over the course of this week to scale back the density of workers outside their homes. It began with a 50% decrease, moved to 75% yesterday, and the announcement today of a total shift to off-site working.
The restrictions do not affect critical businesses, including pharmacies, supermarkets, mass transit and utility workers.
The state of 19.5 million is leading the nation in coronavirus cases. Cuomo said there are currently 7,100 confirmed cases – an increase of nearly 3,000 new cases over Thursday. Testing has been expanding rapidly throughout the state, pushing up the numbers. There have been 35 fatalities.
“The numbers are going up at such a rate – it’s more than double the capacity of the hospital system, it is more than triple the capacity of the ICU [intensive care unit] system,” Cuomo said. “We can’t get more ventilators. I can’t increase that side of the equation.”
Cuomo also announced that non-essential gatherings of any size and for any reason are no longer allowed. Prior to his announcement, groups of 50 were still allowed to meet, while socially distancing themselves from one another.
The governor also urged manufacturers that could redirect their factories to make critically-needed medical equipment to do so, saying the state would help them absorb the cost of any new manufacturing equipment, as well as paying “a premium” for the goods.
“I am asking businesses to be creative,” Cuomo said. “If you can make a uniform, why can’t you make a mask? We are researching that.”
But ventilators are the state’s greatest need.
“The ventilators are to this war what missiles were to World War II,” Cuomo said. “That is the key piece of equipment.”
New York has taken a series of steps to try to reduce the spread of the potentially deadly respiratory virus. Restaurants and bars are now offering take-away and delivery services only, cinemas and museums have been shuttered and schools have suspended classes. Also Friday, Cuomo ordered all barber shops, nail and hair salons and tattoo parlors to close temporarily.