New York State to Close All Restaurants and Bars, Still Allow Take-Out
by Dan Clark • Published on March 16, 2020 • 0 Comments
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters Monday, March 16, 2020.
Credit: Dan Clark
UPDATE: Later Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order closing schools statewide in New York for at least two weeks. We have the details in a separate post.
New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will all close restaurants and bars, starting at 8 p.m. Monday, but allow food take-out and delivery, until further notice in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
All three states have also agreed to close down gyms, movie theaters, and state casinos, Cuomo said, and will ban all gatherings of more than 50 people.
“We have agreed to a common set of rules that will pertain in all of our states, so don’t even think about going to a neighboring state,” Cuomo said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement Monday morning on a conference call with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont.
He followed up the call with an in-person briefing with reporters at the state capitol, which was cleared of non-essential staff Monday morning. Cuomo said the State Liquor Authority in New York will allow alcohol-focused businesses to sell their products off-site.
“We’re also very aware of the economic consequences for these establishments, so the state liquor authority is going to change its rules … that will allow bars, restaurants, distilleries, to sell their products off-premises,” Cuomo said.
New York will also close all of its schools for at least two weeks, Cuomo said, with details expected to come Monday afternoon. His office is working on final regulations with the State Education Department, he said.
That comes after schools in New York City, Westchester County, and on Long Island were all closed, starting this week, to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Several schools across the state have also closed as a precaution.
New York City and Rockland, Westchester, Suffolk, and Nassau Counties will now be required to have a plan for child care, educational services, and meal programs for students kept out of school, Cuomo said. That plan is due to the state later Monday.
Cuomo’s message Monday morning to New Yorkers was to stay home as much as possible to prevent further spread of the disease. New York will waive park fees at state, local, and county parks to provide some relief for people who feel cooped up at home.
Cuomo also announced new actions to reduce the density of people in certain areas, like government buildings. Local governments will now be required to reduce their in-office workforce by at least half, and allow more employees to work from home.
Local governments will also be required, from now on, to supply masks to their police departments and emergency workers to protect those individuals from the disease, Cuomo said.
New York will also be opening two new drive-through testing facilities to facilitate the process. Those facilities will be set up on Staten Island and in Rockland County, Cuomo said.
As of Monday morning, 950 people had tested positive for the coronavirus in New York, Cuomo said. The state has tested more than 7,000 people for the disease in the last three weeks. Seven people diagnosed with the disease in New York had died as of Monday morning, Cuomo said.
He called, again, on President Donald Trump to deploy the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to identify facilities that could be retrofitted into temporary medical facilities. That’s out of fear that New York’s current capacity for patients is too low to meet the demands of the pandemic.
“I don’t believe we’re going to be able to flatten the curve enough to meet the capacity of the health care system,” Cuomo said.
If the federal government doesn’t step in to create more hospital capacity, New York will create a plan to do it on its own, Cuomo said. He’ll be organizing the National Guard, unions, and private developers to handle the issue if needed, he said.
Cuomo also asked local governments to start finding facilities that could be retrofitted to accommodate additional hospital beds. He said New York City should find a place for 5,000 more beds, Westchester should find 2,000 beds, and Nassau and Suffolk Counties should find 1,000 beds each.
To help with the process, the state Department of Health will be suspending regulations that limit hospital capacity, Cuomo said. That way, those facilities can fit more people into areas than currently allowed.
As Cuomo spoke to reporters at the state capitol, members of the Legislature released statements to the press saying they would not return to Albany Monday to continue session. They’ll return later this week, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said.
“For the purposes of efficiency as well as the public health and safety of members and staff, session will be postponed until later this week, possibly Wednesday,” Heastie said. “This is subject to change and we will provide updates as developments warrant.”
The statement came after Heastie said, over the weekend, that two members of the State Assembly had tested positive for the disease. No other lawmakers have said they’ve tested positive.