New York Governor Mandates All Non-Essential Workers Stay Home

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo - Getty - H 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the "New York state on pause" mandate in a press conference Friday morning.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued a stay-at-home order to more aggressively combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The "New York state on pause" directive — outlined as "Policies Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone" — requires 100 percent of the state's non-essential workforce to stay home.

"This is the most drastic action we can take," said Cuomo on Friday morning of taking a tougher stance to "close the valve" and flatten the curve of the spread of the virus by further reducing density. The directive bans non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size.

The main two rules shared by Cuomo are that only essential businesses will be functioning and that residents are to remain indoors to the greatest extent to protect physical and mental health. 

After first reducing the state workforce to 50 percent and then followed by 75 percent, Cuomo is now mandating that 100 percent of the state's workforce, excluding essential services, must stay at home. "We're going to take it to the ultimate step which is to close the valve," he explained of the measures. "Because the rate in increase portends a total overwhelming of our hospital system. We need everyone to be safe, otherwise no one can be safe."

The provisions will be enforced with civil fines, Cuomo stressed — aiming the warning to young people who have not been heeding the directive to social distance and stay at home.

He also stressed that words matter, underscoring that the directive is not a "shelter in place order," which is more broadly used in response to a school shooting. Under the New York guidelines, food deliveries and mass transit qualify under essential services.

It is unclear how long the order will last, with Cuomo stating the order is for "the foreseeable future." The rules go into effect Sunday night.

The state had been taking steps towards Friday's directive by limiting the workforce and — in agreement with neighboring states New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut — temporarily closing non-essential businesses in a cascading effect. The newest call on Friday added barber shops, hair salons and all similar services to the growing list as all residents have been encouraged to stay at home and social distance.

The "New York on pause" order comes amid mounting pressure for the state — which has become the epicenter for the country's outbreak — to follow the lead of other countries and, as of Thursday night, the state of California to take a more aggressive approach in stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The state of New York now has more than 7,000 confirmed cases, with fatalities increasing to 35. As of Thursday morning, the five boroughs accounted for about 70 percent of the cases in the state, de Blasio said on Friday.

Another country hotspot, San Francisco, was first in the country to issue a shelter-in-place order on Monday — a move that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has praised. De Blasio and Cuomo have differed in their public comments on such an order, with the decision ultimately being left up to Cuomo. As recently as Tuesday, Cuomo had said he had "no interest whatsoever and no plan whatsoever to quarantine any city."

Earlier Friday morning, however, De Blasio — who had said a shelter-in-place decision would come by the end of the week — renewed his call for a such a directive over fear of an impending hospital supply shortage as infections continue to grow and overrun the health care system.

"At the beginning of April we will run out of basic medical supplies because of the intense strain that’s being put already on our hospitals by this crisis,” de Blasio said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “We have to, not only in New York but in many parts of the country, we have to go to a shelter-in-place model.”

The "Safer-at-Home" Emergency Order that California has newly adopted allows for essential activities such as going to the grocery store, picking up medications, taking pets to veterinarian, attending medical appointments and getting exercise outside while practicing social distancing. Residents are allowed to work if their job is considered essential.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, on Friday morning, also stressed that terms like "lockdown" and "shelter in place" are inaccurate, since the new guidelines still allot and encourage these activities.

During President Donald Trump's daily press conference with the White House coronavirus task force on Friday, he praised the stay-at-home orders given by both Cuomo and Newsom and stressed the productive communications he has had with the country's governors. Trump referred to New York and California as the "hottest of them all" in terms of hotspots across the country, and shot down implementing a country-wide shutdown at the moment.