NEW YORK - Face coverings will be required in busy spaces while New York City officials said they would create an emergency food reserve and take other steps to safeguard residents’ sustenance. Meanwhile, the mayor urged a cautious approach to reviving the economy.
Here are the latest coronavirus developments in New York:
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state residents will be required to wear face coverings when they are out and coming in close contact with other people.
The new mandate will require a mask or face covering on busy streets, public transit or any situation where people cannot maintain 6 feet of social distancing. The executive order is similar to recommendations already in effect in New York City and will be in force Friday.
“Stopping the spread is everything. How can you not wear a mask when you’re going to come close to a person?" Cuomo said at his daily briefing. "On what theory would you not do that?”
The governor said there will initially be no civil penalties for noncompliance, but he’s urging merchants to enforce it among customers.
Though hospitalizations from the outbreak are leveling off, New York officials are trying to dramatically reduce transmission rates as the death toll rises. New York recorded 752 deaths Tuesday, for a total of more than 11,000 in just over a month.
Those figures don’t include approximately 3,800 other deaths in New York City during the outbreak that city officials say were probably caused by the virus, but haven’t been confirmed by a lab test.
Cuomo's announcement came hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for stores to make customers wear face coverings in order to protect store workers against exposure.
The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
In a city where 1.2 million residents — including one in five children — already struggled at times to feed themselves, the number is expected to grow as an estimated half-million New Yorkers have lost or are likely to lose their jobs in the immediate future.
“We will make sure everyone gets the food they need,” de Blasio said in unveiling a $170 million plan to help.
The city already is handing out 250,000 free meals a day at schools and delivering 25,000 a day to senior citizens. Officials expect to provide 10 million free meals in April and expect the need to grow to as much as 15 million in May.
Meanwhile, the city has contacted some 11,000 taxi and livery drivers — whose livelihoods have been shattered as people stay home — to hire them to deliver meals to those who can’t leave home, the mayor said.
While officials said the city food supply is stable, they also plan to create a $50 million reserve of as many as 18 million shelf-stable meals.
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THE ECONOMIC EQUATION
While outlining the hardships New Yorkers are facing, de Blasio said leaders need to be deliberative about trying to rev up the economy.
“I want to restart the economy desperately ... but the best way to do it is to be careful,” he said, warning that moving too quickly could create an opportunity for the coronavirus to come roaring back.
De Blasio, whose city is the epicenter of the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak, said Wednesday that some parts of Asia have experienced a resurgence of the virus after reopening.
De Blasio spoke after the city's health department revised its toll of COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday by adding 3,778 "probable" coronavirus deaths among people who showed symptoms but were never tested for the virus. The new methodology raises the city's virus toll to more than 10,000.
“The first thing to think about is the human reality of thousands more human beings we lost and families that are in pain," the Democrat told “Fox and Friends” early Wednesday. “But then we also have to think about what it means for all of us and to really recognize the sheer ferocity of this disease.”
In an earlier interview on CNN's “New Day,” de Blasio said the new numbers show New Yorkers that “we’ve all gone through hell here.”
The virus has been unmerciful on nursing homes, killing 2,500 patients in just a few weeks, but so far New York state has refused to disclose the names of facilities where people have died.
State officials took one step toward transparency Wednesday, saying they will now require facilities to tell residents and their families within 24 hours if another patient at the home has contracted the virus or died. The upcoming executive order also will include adult homes, where more than 580 people have died.
But the state will continue to withhold the names of nursing homes that have experienced severe outbreaks from others, saying patients deserve privacy.
The change was intended to help people like Cindy Coughlin, who told The Associated Press she's struggled to get information about whether there is a COVID-19 outbreak at the nursing home in Johnson City where her 83-year-old father in-law resides.
Coughlin said she’s at a loss to understand how the public release of information would endanger anyone’s privacy.
“I wish they would do that,” Coughlin said. “I don’t’ know if it would make you feel worse or better, but I think I’d feel a lot better knowing there was only 5 cases there instead of 25. I guess that’s one thing I can’t understand."