Coronavirus: New York locks down 20 million people

March 20, 2020
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A lone bike rider on 6th Avenue Manhattan New York

New York, the Big Apple City, has joined California in imposing tough new restrictions, limiting the activity of 60 million people in the two states to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Only essential workers are allowed to leave their homes.

In announcing Friday’s action, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pleaded for more medical personnel and supplies to treat coronavirus cases that could overwhelm the hospitals in his state of nearly 20 million.

“This is the most drastic action we can take,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in announcing he would issue an executive order to mandate that 100% of the non-essential workforce stay home and all non-essential businesses close.

“Remain indoors, go outside for solitary exercise,” he said.

In Berkeley, California, many more people were out walking their dogs, running and biking than on a usual weekday morning, with pedestrians avoiding passing one another on the narrow sidewalks by veering onto the nearly empty street.

The California health orders on the state’s 40 million people, imposed on Thursday, also allow for outside exercise as long as people stay six feet (two meters) apart.

More than 1,000 cases have been confirmed in California, where 19 people have died.

The New York state order would be enforced with civil fines and mandatory closures for any businesses not in compliance, he said. Cuomo said it was not a “shelter in place” order and neither was California’s.

Cuomo said essential services included food suppliers to grocery stores, pharmacies that needs drugs, keeping the internet working, and water and electricity supplies.

New York has 7,102 confirmed cases, 2,950 of which are new. The hospitalization rate is 18%. Of the state’s cases, 4,408 are in New York City, the most populous U.S. city with about 8.5 million people.

Cuomo pleaded for the manufacture of ventilators and protective masks for an expected surge in cases.

“The ventilators are to this war what missiles were to World War Two,” Cuomo said. He said the state would “pay a premium” to companies that could provide more personal protective equipment, gloves and masks, and he asked companies that might be capable of making these products to “get creative.”

More than 200 people have died in the United States and over 14,600 cases had been confirmed by Friday, the surge in cases reflecting an increase in testing. Health experts believe the actual number of COVID-19 cases to be far higher.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it had temporarily closed the air traffic control tower at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York because a technician had tested positive and controllers would work at an alternate location on airport property.

Part of the Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center was closed for cleaning after new cases of COVID-19 were reported.

Psychologists and psychiatrists are beginning to report signs of distress among patients worried about the consequences.

Six clinicians interviewed by Reuters say the coronavirus has been the prime focus of virtually all recent therapy sessions.

Chicagoan Mike Wisler was prescribed a sedative to help him sleep when the financial and emotional impact of the pandemic hit the 50-year-old bartender. “My mind won’t shut off,” Wisler said. “As soon as I wake up, it’s like, ‘How am I going to get by this month?’”

The Trump administration announced moves to give relief to workers and students.

The U.S. government was moving its tax filing day to July 15 from April 15, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said. The administration temporarily suspended interest and payments on federal student loans for at least the next 60 days.

Meanwhile, the U.S. unemployment benefits program, part of the safety net for the labor market, is about to face its biggest test in more than a decade.

More than 1.5 million applications could be filed this week, economists said, as people who work for restaurants, bars, hotels and other businesses suddenly find themselves out of work.

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