Governor Andrew Cuomo has given New York City officials 24 hours to prepare a plan addressing risky outdoor activity in the city, saying “dramatic action” is needed.
At a press briefing Sunday, Cuomo said he visited New York City on Saturday and witnessed people gathering in parks and playing basketball, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is a density level in New York City that is wholly inappropriate,” he said. “You would think there was nothing going on in parts of New York City.”
Flouting guidance about social distancing, he added, was “insensitive,” “arrogant” and “self-destructive.”
Cuomo said he had asked Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker Corey Johnson to develop a plan to correct the situation. He gave them 24 hours.
“I’m open to anything, but it has to be done quickly and it has to be dramatic action,” he said.
The governor illustrated his point with a photo of shoppers at a farmers’ market at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. His executive order days earlier exempted farmers’ markets from a sweeping closure of workplaces.
Cuomo noted that there was less traffic in New York City now that workers in non-essential industries were required to stay home.
“Let’s open streets; let’s open space; that’s where people should be,” he added.
Johnson tweeted early Sunday afternoon, “@NYGovCuomo just called me about playgrounds & overcrowding. He and I spoke about this yesterday. We should immediately identify streets … to close so there is more room for play & leisure. Let’s do this ASAP.”
At the same briefing, Cuomo said he had asked the federal government to mobilize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct temporary hospitals at SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Old Westbury, Westchester County Center, and the Javits Center in Manhattan.
“I’ve made all necessary approvals, so from my point of view, construction can start tomorrow,” he said. He has requested 1,000 beds at Javits.
Construction has been allowed to continue in New York while the pandemic shuts down much of the city. It is one of a handful of industries deemed “essential.”
A recent uptick in testing across the state has revealed how quickly the virus has spread. As of 11 a.m. Sunday, there were 15,168 known cases of the virus, with a hospitalization rate of 13 percent. So far, there have been 114 deaths.
According to Cuomo, some 70 percent of those who died were 70 or older, and the majority had underlying health conditions. About 80 percent of the people under 70 who died also had underlying health conditions.
Write to Sylvia Varnham O’Regan at [email protected]