Cuomo announces drastic rules: No gathering, no going to work

Only essential employees can go to workplaces, governor orders

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all non-essential businesses to operate remotely (Credit: Getty Images)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all non-essential businesses to operate remotely (Credit: Getty Images)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday barred all employees of non-essential businesses from reporting to work, and laid out what amount to shelter-in-place rules for New Yorkers, though he avoided the phrase. The order exempts food businesses and others deemed essential.

As part of what he dubbed “New York on Pause,” the governor urged New Yorkers to avoid taking public transportation unless absolutely necessary and remain six feet from all other people when in public.

“This is the most drastic action we can take,” he said at an Albany press conference.

The measures take effect Sunday.

Cuomo said outdoor recreational activities should be limited to those that don’t require contact with other people, such as jogging. The governor urged vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and those who are immune-compromised, to remain indoors and wear masks when interacting with others.

After saying he will halt all residential and commercial evictions for 90 days, Cuomo noted that landlords would have a hard time renting out vacant apartments anyway, and real estate agents can’t show apartments under the new workforce rules.

Businesses that don’t abide by the rules will face civil penalties, he warned. “These are the rules: No nonessential gatherings,” he said. “These are not helpful hints … These are legal provisions.”

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Cuomo asserted that the order does not constitute a shelter-in-place order, even though the new provisions closely follow the policy announced in California yesterday. The governor has shied away from explicitly implementing a shelter-in-place mandate, saying the phrasing evokes active shooter situations or nuclear holocaust, not citizens who are permitted to leave their homes to walk their dogs or go grocery shopping.

“Even California doesn’t call it that anymore,” he reiterated Friday. “It panicked people.”

The provisions don’t apply regionally, despite the governor’s repeated assertions that such limitations should apply to New York’s neighbors. He said, however, that governors of New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Connecticut will consider the stay-inside provisions. He said he would talk to leaders of nearby states today.

Through executive orders this week, Cuomo limited the number of employees who can report to work, first capping the workforce Wednesday at 50 percent then at 25 percent Thursday. Essential businesses, which include construction companies, are exempt from the order. That includes skilled trades such as electricians, plumbers and other related construction firms, and professionals for essential infrastructure or for emergency repair and safety purposes.

He also suspended mortgage payments and foreclosures in New York for a 90-day period.

New York has 7,102 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 35 deaths.

“We need everybody to be safe or no one will be safe,” Cuomo said. “This is not life as usual. Accept it, realize and deal with it.”