Chairs are stacked in a Starbucks coffee shop that remained open for customers purchasing for take-away, Monday, March 16, 2020, in New York. New York leaders took a series of unprecedented steps Sunday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including canceling schools and extinguishing most nightlife in New York City. (Photo: AP)
New York state entered a new phase in the coronavirus pandemic Monday. New York City closed its public schools, and officials said schools statewide would close by Wednesday. New York joined with Connecticut and New Jersey to close bars, restaurants and movie theaters along with setting limits on social gatherings. The number of confirmed cases in New York climbed toward 1,000.
Bars, restaurants and movie theaters are being shut down at 8 p.m. Monday throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut because of the coronavirus, the states’ governors said.
The governors said restaurants and bars will move to take-out and delivery services only.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is “strongly encouraging” nonessential businesses to close in New York after 8 p.m.
“Our primary goal right now is to slow the spread of this virus so that the wave of new infections doesn’t crash our health care system, and everyone agrees social distancing is the best way to do that,” Cuomo said.
The three states also will limit crowd capacity for social and recreational gatherings to 50 people, effective 8 p.m. Monday.
The virus that has stricken tens of thousands around the globe causes only mild symptoms for the majority of the people who become infected but can be deadly for some, especially older adults and people with certain health conditions such as respiratory illness.
Cuomo said a seventh person has died in New York after contracting the coronavirus as the number of cases statewide climbed toward 1,000.
The state had 950 confirmed cases Monday morning, with about half of them in New York City. The metropolitan region continues to post the lion’s share of confirmed cases.
The seventh death was on Long Island’s Suffolk County. There have been five deaths in New York City and one in suburban Rockland County.
Cuomo said nearly 160 people were hospitalized.
Cuomo said Monday that all schools in New York state will temporarily close for at least two weeks.
Schools in New York City and most other districts were already closed Monday. Cuomo administration officials say they are closing the remaining 14% by Wednesday.
“If in two weeks, miraculously, everything is fine, I’ll reopen every school in New York in two weeks,” Cuomo said.
The city’s nearly 1,800 public schools will be closed until at least until April 20, the end of spring break, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday.
The mayor said that teachers would receive training for online learning this week and that “learning centers” would be set up for the children of essential medical workers.
De Blasio had resisted closing the school system in part because many of its 1.1 million pupils rely on school meals. Free “grab and go” breakfasts and lunches will be distributed to children at school buildings starting Monday, he said.
The U.S. Military Academy has delayed the return of cadets from spring break because of the outbreak.
Cadets had been scheduled to return to West Point on Sunday. But academy officials delayed return until at least March 29 due to health risks associated with COVID-19. Cadets were told to remain in contact with their chain of command for instructions on returning to the academy.
The historic academy along the Hudson River was temporarily closed to visitors Friday.
Cuomo pressed his case for urgent federal government to create more hospital beds as the number of virus cases is expected to rise quickly.
Cuomo, a Democrat, wants the Army Corps of Engineers to be mobilized to equip facilities like military bases or college dorms to serve as temporary medical centers. He said failing to act would be “a tragedy.”
“You overwhelm the hospitals. You have people on gurneys in hallways,” Cuomo said at a news conference. “That is what is going to happen now if we do nothing.”
New York state has about 53,000 regular hospital beds and 3,000 intensive care beds.
New York is looking at coming up with a list of dorms, former nursing homes and other facilities that could be retrofitted into medical centers to provide back-up beds for hospitals.
Cuomo is asking local governments to immediately identify beds in available facilities.