NEW YORK, NY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday extended the statewide stay-at-home order to May 15 after the state saw more than 600 coronavirus deaths overnight. The severe social distancing measure, which keeps all nonessential workers home and school buildings closed, has helped slow the rate that the virus spreads, Cuomo said.
While about 2,000 people were newly diagnosed Wednesday, hospitalization, intubation and intensive care treatment rates are all falling. Hospitalizations fell to 17,735 while the net change fell 600. The three-day average, meanwhile, fell 363.
The extension of the so-called “New York State on PAUSE” program comes a day after Cuomo said New Yorkers will be forced to wear a facial covering such as a bandana or mask when they’re in public and cannot socially distance themselves.
Cuomo said he will sign an executive order mandating facial coverings and give people three days to become compliant with the new rules. The order goes into effect Friday at 8 p.m., he said. Civil violations, while not enacted yet, could be in store for people who don’t wear a facial covering in public and are not at least 6 feet from others.
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On Wednesday, 606 people died of the coronavirus in New York, 577 at hospitals and 29 in nursing homes. The good news, Cuomo said Thursday, was that evidence shows people “can control the virus.”
“We can control the spread,” he said.
Cuomo reiterated he plans to reopen the government on a regional basis and that it will be done in phases.
“Why don’t we open tomorrow?” Cuomo said. “Because we’re afraid of the infection rate going up. Everything we’ve been doing is to get the infection rate down.”
Cuomo said the private sector must consider having people work from home and ensuring they can get to work safely, particularly if they take public transit.
Cuomo also stressed the need for a “tracing army,” referring to investigators who can track if an infected person came in close contact with others and identify who needs to be isolated.
The state is tracking hospitalization rates, he said, but that large-scale antibody testing is needed to track the actual infection spread. Experts predicted a person infected with the new coronavirus would infect up to 1.4 to 1.8 people under the most severe projection. Under moderate projections, that rate was expected to be closer to 1.2 to 1.45. That number is actually 0.9, he said, leaving “very little wiggle room.”
“You see how narrow the window is,” he said.
A situation becomes “out of control,” he said, when someone infects two or more people, as was seen on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and in Wuhan at the beginning of the outbreak.
“That’s fire through dry grass,” Cuomo said.
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