ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo told New Yorkers, “We are all in quarantine now,” as he announced that 100% of the non-essential workforce must stay home to halt the spread of COVID-19.
All employees in non-essential roles must work from home and businesses that do not comply with the new restrictions will face fines and penalties, the governor said at press conference Thursday morning at the state Capitol.
“This is the most drastic action we can take,” he said.
Drastic measures are necessary to prevent the health care system from becoming overloaded with COVID-19 cases, he said.
New York State had 7,102 COVID-19 cases as of Friday, with New York City accounting for more than half of the positive results. Thirty-five people have died of COVID-19 in the state so far, he said.
Based on current data, hospitalization is required in 18% of cases, Gov. Cuomo said, with 1,255 of the 7,102 people requiring a hospital stay.
In the event that New York City hospitals become overcrowded, the state may move patients to hospitals with free beds in other parts of the state, Gov. Cuomo said. “We are coordinating downstate need with upstate hospital beds,” he said.
As hospitals statewide look for ways to increase their capacity, Gov. Cuomo announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking at locations for large temporary facilities to house patients. State university campuses are being considered, he said.
The governor said halting the spread of COVID-19 will require a collective effort on the part of all New Yorkers.
Gov. Cuomo took personal responsibility for the hardships people are likely to face during the shutdown.
“If someone wants to complain, blame me,” he said. “When we look back, I want to be able to say I did everything we could do.”
The governor said he understood the short-term impact of his policies.
“I know that we are going to put people out of work with what I did,” he said.
Businesses that provide essential services such as food, gas, transportation and media are exempt from the governor’s new restrictions. Grocery stores, liquor stores, pharmacies and health care providers will remain open during the statewide shutdown.
The state will enforce fines on businesses that do not follow the new density restrictions.
“This is not voluntary. This is not helpful hints,” Gov. Cuomo said. “There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance.”
While individuals will not face fines, Gov. Cuomo called on all New Yorkers to practice social distancing. The economic cost of social distancing and density reduction measures is worth it, he said.
“I believe these policies will save lives,” he said. “And I am not willing to put a price on human life.
Several measures to protect those facing financial uncertainty during the mandatory closures were announced by the governor’s office on Thursday.
New Yorkers who are unable to work full-time are eligible for a three-month delay on their mortgage payments and will not face any penalties. The state Legislature passed a provision to provide paid sick leave to anyone quarantined as a result of exposure to COVID-19.
The state Assembly Minority Conference proposed the Small Business Emergency Recovery Act of 2020 to protect small businesses that have been negatively impacted by social distancing restrictions on Thursday.
“Local businesses are fighting for survival and facing an uncertain future,” State Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said in a statement. The legislation proposes giving $890 million in relief to small businesses, offering zero interest loans and postponing business tax collection for 180 days.
The governor denied that the state is running out of testing kits, and did not comment on the announcement that Capital Region hospitals have suspended testing due to a shortage of kits.
“We are doing more testing than anywhere else,” he said.
“We are working with BioReference [Laboratories] to process tests for Albany now,” said Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor.
“If you need a test and it is clinically relevant, we will get that done for you,” Gov. Cuomo said.
The sign, pictured above, is posted on the door at Ronson’s Gold Star Liquors in Watertown. They have received confirmation that they will remain open and ask that people not flood the store.