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Cuomo Tamps Down Talk of Quarantines, while NYC Mayor Says Shelter in Place Possible

Petr Kratochvil
Public Domain Pictures

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he may take more steps soon to stop the spread of the coronavirus, including ordering the closure of most businesses, but has not made that decision yet. The governor , trying to tamp down rumors spreading on social media, say he has no plans at this time  to quarantine any cities in the state. 

Just a few hours after Cuomo's remarks, New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio said city residents should be prepared in the next 48 hours to possibly shelter in place . But he says he won’t give the order without consulting with the governor .

The governor says more may need to be done besides closing bars, restaurants, gyms and casinos to help prevent a worst case scenario for transmission of the virus.

“The curve is not flattening to a level that we can sustain, which would suggest that you are going to need to take more efforts to slow the curve,” Cuomo said. “That’s what we are exploring now.”

The governor says quarantining any particular city or region, as has been done in the San Francisco area, will only cause people to flee to other locales. And he says he would not allow any local government in New York to make that decision.

“Whatever we do is going to be statewide, thought through comprehensive. Nobody is going to be quarantined,” Cuomo said. “The likely additional actions would be on the business side first.”

For example, closing all but essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies. 

Mayor deBlasio said in his  briefing on the virus a few hours later that he respects the role of the state , but says shelter in place in New York City within the next 48 hours is a possibility , and he thinks it’s “decision time”.

Cuomo’s chief of staff Melissa DeRosa responded in a written statement.

“ Any blanket quarantine or shelter in place policy would require State action and as the Governor has said, there is no consideration of that for any locality at this time."

Cuomo is concerned about having enough hospital beds and ventilators to handle what state health officials believe will be the peak of the infection, in about 45 days.  He says the current hospital bed capacity in the state is 53,000 beds, but as m any as 110,000 may be needed.   The governor say he’s trying to do what he can to locate unused dormitories and closed nursing homes to refit as temporary hospitals. And he says he’s putting aside his political differences with President Donald Trump, whom he has often feuded with, and asking the President to authorize the Army Corp of Engineers to quickly build new hospital space. Cuomo spoke to the President Tuesday morning.

“I said to the President who is a New Yorker, who I’ve known for many years, ‘I put my hand out in partnership’,” Cuomo said. “And the president was 100% sincere in saying that he wanted to work together in a spirit of partnership and cooperation.”

The governor says he believes the President’s team is now “on it”.  He adds that Trump said he’d help New York but offered no specific promises.   

Cuomo says a drive-through testing center will open in Nassau County Tuesday, and there will also be one opening soon in Rockland County.

Meanwhile, efforts continue to pass a state budget, and the legislature is tentatively scheduled to return Wednesday to take some votes.  The state Comptroller estimates that a $6 billion dollar deficit may grow to at least $10 billion dollars.   The governor says he may ask the legislature for special powers to make changes to the spending plan later in the year, if revenues continue to fall.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.