The next stage in the fight against the coronavirus will begin at the end of the weekend after Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order Friday that will close all businesses not deemed essential.
Cuomo said that businesses will be ordered shut indefinitely by 8 p.m. on Sunday except those that provide essential services. Businesses that are not in certain categories will be shut by authorities and owners subject to civil penalties.
Individuals who congregate will not be penalized but will be discouraged meeting.
“This is about saving lives,” Cuomo said. “If everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”
Essential services include supermarkets and food establishments, pharmacies, healthcare facilities, gas stations and auto repair shops, transportation and financial institutions. For a full list of exempted businesses, visit the Empire State Development page at https://esd.ny.gov/guidance-executive-order-2026.
The governor said unless more people heed the calls for social distancing, there will be too many cases for the healthcare system to handle. The number of cases in the state is expected to peak around May 1.
“The numbers are going up at such a rate, it’s more than double the capacity of the hospital system and it more than double the capacity of the ICU system,” Cuomo said. “We can’t get more ventilators. I can’t increase that side of the equation. I can’t create more ICU beds without ventilators. The only option available to us is to reduce the spread and reduce the rate of the spread.”
As of Friday morning, there had been 7,102 cases out of more than 32,000 tests conducted statewide. On Thursday, the state conducted about 10,000 tests, Cuomo said. In Westchester, there have now been 1,091 positives and an increase to 12 in Putnam.
Officials are looking to have the Army Corps of Engineers convert existing facilities into makeshift hospitals, such as the Javits Center in Manhattan, hotels and SUNY dorm rooms, including Purchase, he said.
In other actions taken by Cuomo, there will be a 90-day moratorium on residential and commercial evictions and all credit card and ATM fees will be waived.
The federal government announced on Friday morning that it would be extending the deadline for filing tax returns to July 15. The state will also follow that revised schedule.
Cuomo said the state could face a revenue shortfall of as much as $8 billion because of the shutdown of the economy and the upcoming delay in collecting tax revenues. However, he said the steps to shut down businesses is needed to help protect people.
“Let’s deal with what’s in front of us and let’s save as many lives as possible,” Cuomo said. “That’s what these policies do.”