Coronavirus: All of New York state’s non-essential workers now must stay home as Governor Andrew Cuomo expands commuting ban

Jodi Xu Klein

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered a ban to keep all non-essential workers in the Empire State from commuting to their jobs, up from 75 per cent of workers just a day ago.

“Only essential businesses can have workers come in,” said Cuomo, whose state has about 20 million residents. Businesses not affected by the ban include grocery stores, food deliveries, pharmacies, internet providers and utilities.

“For the rest of the businesses, 100 per cent of the workforce must stay home,” Cuomo said, emphasising that these measures are legal provisions that will be enforced.

“There will be civil fines and mandatory closures for businesses that are not in compliance,” he said. “Your actions can affect my health. That’s where we are.”

The ban comes as new coronavirus cases in the state continue to surge. In the last 24 hours, New York state had 2,950 newly confirmed cases, bringing the total to 7,102, nearly 10 times as many as it did just five days ago.

New York City confirmed 1,939 new cases, for a total of 4,408, up nearly tenfold in just four days.

New York state accounts for about half of the nation’s total confirmed cases.

“Part of the jump is because we have ramped up the number of tests in a short period of time and we are doing more tests per capita than China and South Korea,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo also issued strict guidelines for residents in the state. Seniors over 70 years old, people who are immunocompromised, and those with underlying illnesses should remain indoors as much as possible and avoid visiting households with multiple occupants, the guidelines said.

People visiting vulnerable groups, including carers and aides, should be pre-screened by having their temperatures taken, the guidelines stated. Anyone in the presence of a vulnerable person should wear a mask.

Non-essential gatherings of any size, for any reason, including parties, celebrations or other social events, are canceled.

Coronavirus: California governor issues stay at home order

Outdoor exercise remains an option during the epidemic, but it must be done alone.

Although New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for days has pushed for a citywide “shelter in place” order, Cuomo has repeatedly dismissed the idea, saying he would not quarantine New Yorkers in their homes.

A woman on her morning jog runs along a deserted Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California. The state has told its 40 million residents to stay at home, the most drastic move yet in the US. Photo: AFP

The governor kept up his resistance to the idea on Friday, refusing to call the latest statewide measure a “shelter in place” order, saying the term evoked images of active shooter situations and a nuclear attack.

But he said he did not rule out the possibility of imposing other mandatory rules to control the surging spread of Covid-19 if businesses and residents failed to adhere to state guidelines.

The most aggressive measure against Covid-19 taken so far in the US happened in California, where Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the state’s 40 million residents to stay at home and go out only for essential activities, starting on Thursday night.

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