New York Governor Andrew Cuomo rejected the notion that New York City could be facing a 'Shelter-in-place' order on Wednesday, contradicting a warning from Mayor Bill de Blasio that residents should prepare for one.
"That is not going to happen, shelter in place, for New York City,” said Cuomo on a Wednesday morning podcast. “For any city or county to take an emergency action, the state has to approve it. And I wouldn’t approve shelter in place."
De Blasio stopped short of ordering a shelter-in-place during a Tuesday press conference, less than 24 hours before Cuomo rejected the idea out of hand. "New Yorkers should be prepared right now for the possibility of a shelter-in-place order," de Blasio said. "The decision will be made in the next 48 hours."
While the mayor and governor have been making many decisions from a place that seemed to represent united leadership, the disagreement between the two shows a disconnect in opinion about how the nation's most populous city should move forward as the virus continues to spread.
De Blasio's preparation warning on Tuesday followed an announcement that New York City would be testing 5,000 residents for the COVID-19 Wuhan virus per day, while "highly prioritizing" those that should be tested. De Blasio and Cuomo presented a united front when announcing the closure of NYC schools until at least April 20, but Cuomo said a mandated quarantine would be more of a problem than the spread of disease.
"Quarantine in place, you can’t leave your home...the fear, the panic is a bigger problem than the virus," Cuomo said during the Wednesday interview.
Later Wednesday morning, the governor announced plans to combat the spread of the Wuhan virus which included a vow to have 50,000 hospital beds available in the state of New York. So far, the Empire State has been the hardest hit by the pandemic in the U.S. with over 2,300 confirmed cases. More than 1,300 of those cases are in NYC.
Cuomo said that Department of Health regulations would be waived in order to streamline the process of adding as many hospital beds as are needed. He also announced intentions to request help from retired health care workers in New York as well as assistance from the federal government. Cuomo also announced plans to construct temporary health care facilities as well as potentially use medical ships to care for infected New Yorkers.
Though Cuomo was ardently against a shelter-in-place for New York City, he confirmed a number of regulations that greatly inhibit the ability of NYC residents to operate as normal. Mandatory regulations include statewide school closure, closure of restaurants, bars, and gyms, and a requirement that all businesses operate with no more than 50% of workforce reporting outside of their home. Some exemptions remain in place, such as food services providing delivery and take out. Businesses providing essential services, such as food, pharmacies, healthcare, and shipping and supply facilities are not being asked to reduce staffing levels. Local government, however, is being required to reduce their workforce outside of telecommuting by 50 percent.
Cuomo finished his Wednesday remarks with a request that people approach the pandemic with a sense of calm. Responding to a growing nervousness in New York that citizens will be locked down and stranded, unable to get groceries or leave their homes, Cuomo promised, "that's not going to happen." He offered perspective on the immediate future saying, "We know what is going to happen here. People will get ill. They will resolve. People who are vulnerable, we have to be careful. The panic and the fear is wholly disconnected from the reality."