New York to Ban Large Gatherings, Limit Large Spaces in Effort to Curb Coronavirus
by Dan Clark • Published on March 12, 2020 • 0 Comments
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters Thursday, March 12, 2020.
Credit: Dan Clark
New York state will ban gatherings of more than 500 people and limit the capacity of smaller spaces in an effort to reduce the density in spaces and avoid further spread of the novel coronavirus, which had tested positive in 328 residents as of Thursday afternoon.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that state officials are also speaking with health care providers about a strategy to increase the capacity for hospitalizations statewide.
That could include, in the future, an all-out cancellation of elective surgeries to free up hospital beds for individuals afflicted by the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. New York state is also seeking to bolster the medical staff in hospitals to respond to the disease.
“If the number of people affected go to the hospital and can’t be treated at the hospital, that’s what you want to plan for now,” Cuomo said. “
Cuomo said the state is asking former health care officials to contact their former employers about possibly being placed on call in the event that they’re needed at that facility. The state Department of Health will fast-track their recertification if needed, he said.
Medics from the National Guard and staff from medical schools in New York are being contacted by the state as well to be placed in reserve in case they’re needed, Cuomo said.
New York is also beginning to identify facilities that might be used as overflow areas if the physical capacity of hospitals reaches a critical point.
New rules, Cuomo said, will also be required for nursing homes, which are considered among the most vulnerable areas for the spread of the coronavirus. Workers in those homes will now have to wear masks, and visitors won’t be allowed in most cases.
As of Thursday afternoon, 47 of the 328 people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in New York had been hospitalized. That’s about 14% of the state’s cases.
New York may increase its testing capacity by large margins in the coming days. Cuomo said the state is partnering with a lab that is expected to be approved for automated testing, which will allow more tests to be completed in a short amount of time.
Cuomo has said, in recent days, that the capacity for testing has remained a problem in New York. So far, 2,314 people have been tested for COVID-19 in the state.
Aside from the public health risk, the economic impact of COVID-19 is starting to hit small businesses.
Cuomo said New York state won’t have the capacity to help make up lost revenue for businesses in areas affected by COVID-19, like in Albany where the NCAA announced this week that its March Madness games will be played, but without an audience.
“That’s going to have to be done on a federal level,” Cuomo said. “This state is not going to be able to compensate businesses for lost revenue. It would bankrupt the state.”
The New York State Restaurant Association, on Thursday, pushed back on Cuomo’s decision to cut the capacity numbers for public spaces, saying it will affect restaurants, which are already struggling during the outbreak of COVID-19.
“While we understand prioritizing the health and wellness of employees and patrons, this new cap will dramatically impact all restaurants across the state. Restaurants in Westchester and New York City have already reached a tipping point and are barely keeping their doors open,” said Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of NYSRA. “We are hoping that the Governor and legislators understand the serious peril these eateries are facing and provide the help we will need to navigate this until the worst is behind us.”
Cuomo said state officials are also considering closing the state capitol to visitors, meaning lawmakers, staff, and members of the press would still be allowed in. But lobbyists, advocates, and other visitors would be barred from the building.