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NY Gov. Cuomo presses ‘pause’ by imposing tough new controls as coronavirus spirals to 7,100 cases and 35 deaths

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 3/20/2020 Dave Goldiner, Denis Slattery

Gov. Cuomo dramatically ramped up New York’s coronavirus response on Friday by ordering a statewide lockdown that will shutter most businesses and places strict new restrictions on residents as the number of cases in the state surged above 7,000.

“When I talk about the most drastic action we can take, this is the most drastic action we can take,” the governor said as he ordered “non-essential” businesses to shut down starting Sunday evening.

The order will not apply to essential businesses, which includes grocery stores, banks, pharmacies and other companies critical to public health and safety.

New Yorkers are to stay indoors with limited exceptions for essential jobs and errands, emergencies and solo exercise as the number of COVID-19-related deaths in the state rose to 35.

The majority of the state’s positive cases, 4,400, are in the five boroughs.

Cuomo shied away from calling the new restrictions a “shelter-in-place” order, something Mayor de Blasio has been pushing the governor to enact in recent days.

The governor said instead the state is being put “on pause” in an effort to stem the spread of the potentially deadly disease.

“These are not helpful hints. I am not kidding about this," he said.

There will be civil fines for employers who break the order. While there are no legal consequences for individuals who are in public, crowds will be broken up.

"These provisions will be enforced. Your actions can affect my health,” Cuomo added.

Food delivery services, public transportation will remain open.

The strictest rules, which Cuomo called “Matilda’s Law” in honor of his elderly mother, are going to be in place for seniors over the age of 70, those who are immunocompromised and those who have underlying illnesses. Seniors are required to wear masks when in the company of others and barred from visiting households with multiple people.

Discussions are ongoing with governors of other Northeastern states, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware, to implement similar policies. California has instituted almost identical stay-at-home restrictions.

“I applaud them," President Trump said of Cuomo and California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide shutdowns. “They’re taking very strong, bold steps and I applaud them. We’re working very closely together.”

Cuomo reiterated his concerns about the state’s desperate need for medical supplies, especially ventilators, and urged businesses with the ability to pitch in to assist New York in acquiring masks, gloves and other essentials.

“We need those ventilators,” he said. “Ventilators to this war are what missiles were to WWII."

State health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, said New York is already dipping into its emergency stockpiles to help supply things like masks and gloves to providers.

Earlier Friday, Cuomo ordered all barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, tattoo or piercing parlors and related personal care services to close amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The state will also place a moratorium on all evictions for residential and commercial tenants for the next 90 days. The move comes a day after a statewide freeze on mortgage payments.

The businesses will have to close starting at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Cuomo acknowledged that the order's provisions will "cause disruptions."

“They will cause businesses to close. They will cause much unhappiness. I understand that,” he said. “If someone is unhappy, if somebody wants to blame someone, or complain about someone, blame me.”

Cuomo bristled when questioned about semantics and the idea that the new restrictions are essentially what de Blasio had called for with his request for a “shelter in place” order, saying the term is associated with active shooter situations.

“Words matter. California does not have a shelter in place order. They put in a new policy. It is not shelter in place,” he said. “People are scared and people panic."

Cuomo said he was seeking to limit contact between New Yorkers to reduce the spread of the deadly virus ― and compared the rise in cases to a plumbing valve.

“Tighten the valve more,” he said. “We’re closing the valve.”

Latest coronavirus updates: Click here for our roundup of the most important developments from NYC and around the world.

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