By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Friday requiring that all non-essential businesses close statewide by Sunday, with exceptions made for essential services like grocery stores, pharmacies and healthcare services. The executive order includes additional mandates about social distancing requirements that the state is encouraging individuals to practice if going outside. While city courts announced a 90-day moratorium on evictions last week, Cuomo made the moratorium on residential and commercial evictions statewide, while State Senators Brad Hoylman and Brian Kavanagh also introduced legislation that would enact a statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during state emergencies.
The policy, which the governor called “New York State on PAUSE,” institutes a 100% closure on all non-essential businesses effective on Sunday, March 22 at 8 p.m. The governor’s office released a comprehensive list of what are considered essential services, broken down into separate categories: healthcare operations, infrastructure, manufacturing, retail, services, news media, financial institutions, providers of basic necessities for economically disadvantaged populations, construction, defense, essential services to maintain safety, sanitation and operations of residences or other essential businesses, and vendors that provide essential services or products.
The plan also specified that houses of worship are not ordered to be closed, but it is strongly recommended that no congregate services be held and social distancing should be maintained. Many local houses of worship in the Gramercy and Kips Bay area have announced the closure of their buildings while posting services online through live-streaming.
Healthcare operations that will still be permitted to function include hospitals and walk-in clinics, as well as research and lab services, elder care, doctor and emergency dental, nursing homes, home health care workers and other services. Essential retail includes grocery stores, including all food and beverage stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, farmer’s markets and hardware stores. Restaurants and bars are also still allowed to stay open, but only for take-out and delivery.
Essential services allowed to stay open include laundromats, mail and shipping services, trash and recycling collection, building cleaning and maintenance, warehouse/distribution and fulfillment and funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries.
Homeless shelters and food banks are allowed to remain open as providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations and skilled trade workers such as electricians and plumbers, in addition to other construction-related firms, are allowed to stay open for emergency repair and safety purposes.
The plan is expected to go into effect for the state on Sunday night but Cuomo, along with the governors of Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, has mandated that all barbershops, hair salons, tattoo or piercing parlors, nail salons and related personal care services be closed to the public by Saturday, March 21 at 8 p.m. since the services can’t be provided while effectively practicing social distancing.
In addition to the closures, the 10-point plan also bans non-essential gatherings of any size for any reason, requires that individuals practice social distancing of at least six feet from others when in public, requires that individuals limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact and requires the use of sanitizer practices, such as using isopropyl alcohol wipes.
The plan restricts any concentration of individuals outside their homes to workers who are providing essential services, and social distancing should still be practiced. Young people are also required to practice social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable populations.
Under the plan, individuals should limit the use of public transportation to only when absolutely necessary and if using, should limit exposure by spacing out at least six feet from other riders.
Sick people should not leave their homes unless they have received medical care.
Cuomo also announced “Matilda’s Law,” named for his mother, which provides protections for the populations most vulnerable to coronavirus, including those who are over 70, people with compromised immune systems and individuals with underlying illnesses.
The rules for vulnerable populations included in “Matilda’s Law” are to remain indoors, only go outside for solitary exercise, pre-screen visitors by taking their temperature and checking for flu-like symptoms, not visiting households with multiple people, wearing a mask when with others, requiring others to wear a mask in their presence if possible, always staying six feet away from other individuals and not taking public transportation unless urgent and absolutely necessary.
As of Friday, Cuomo confirmed an additional 2,950 coronavirus cases in New York State, bringing the statewide total to 7,102. That includes 1,939 new cases in New York City for a total of 4,408 cases.