Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has ordered the shutdown of all non-essential businesses in the state, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases surged above 7,000. Except for essential services, all New Yorkers are now ordered to stay indoors for up to 90 days from 8pm Sunday evening.
Cuomo called the new measures the "ultimate step" to curb the outbreak.
"These provisions will be enforced. These are not helpful hints. This is not if you really want to be a great citizen. These are legal provisions," he said at a briefing on Friday morning in Albany, the state's capital. "We need everyone to be safe; otherwise, no one can be safe."
- Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 20, 2020
What does a 90-day quarantine mean for New York state's 19.5 million residents?
Can New Yorkers go outside?
Yes. Although New Yorkers are strongly encouraged to stay indoors and public gatherings are limited, they can still go to the grocery store, hospital or doctor's office, walk their dogs or even head to the laundromat. That's simply because state officials have determined these activities are essential.
Although residents are still allowed to enjoy the outdoors, the governor reminded them to use common sense in maintaining social distance.
"Outdoor recreation is a solitary recreational exercise. It's running. It's hiking," he said. "It's not playing basketball with five other people."
Only professionals in industries also deemed essential during the outbreak will be permitted to go back and forth from their jobs. Residents working in healthcare, sanitation, food services, law enforcement as well as gas stations and laundry mats won't see specific limitations on their movement.
All non-essential businesses have been ordered closed, however, after state officials increasingly demanded staff reductions. Previously capped at groups of 50, non-essential gatherings of New Yorkers of any size, for any reason, are now banned.
What happens if residents don't comply?
Cuomo announced that the mandate applies to all individuals and business in the state. But it's important to note the measure stops short of being a so-called shelter-in-place order, which is intended for mass shootings.
In contrast, California's governor, Gavin Newsom, issued an order mandating residents shelter-in-place earlier this week, although Cuomo on Friday said California was no longer officially using that term.
However, unlike New York's regulations, California's mandate is enforceable as a misdemeanor crime, and demands sheriffs and police chiefs "ensure compliance with and enforce this order".
In New York "the violation of any provision of its order constitutes an imminent threat and creates an immediate menace to public health", the mandate states.
Any businesses violating the order would be fined and forced to close. However, Cuomo insisted the state does not plan to fine individuals who violate the regulations.
What about transit?
New York is home to the county's largest, and oldest, transportation system of subway trains and buses - the MTA in New York City. According to the order, mass transit will stay operational, but residents are strongly discouraged from using public transit unless it's absolutely necessary.
Roads, gas stations and some auto repair services will stay open.
In New York City, the mayor, Bill de Blasio, had pushed for a shelter-in-place order to limit even non-essential travel, such as by foot, bicycle or scooter. However, the state governor had repeatedly dismissed the idea, insisting New Yorkers would not be confined to their homes under a quarantine. The governor is the only official with the executive power to order a city or the entire state to, in effect, lock down. Donald Trump reiterated on Friday that the federal government was not ready to order a nationwide stay-at-home order.
The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus soared by more than 1,000 in the city in just a matter of hours on Thursday. Under Cuomo's order announced on Friday, essential travel is categorized as traveling for necessary supplies, accessing healthcare or going to provide aid to family or friends. Air travel and taxis are still permitted, as is ride-sharing on a personal basis, excluding group rides.
The new provisions will take effect on Sunday night.