New York Orders All Workers at Non-Essential Businesses to Stay Home

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has expanded coronavirus-related restrictions in the Empire State, ordering non-essential businesses to keep all workers home in an effort to slow the spread of the contagion.

“When I talk about the most drastic action we can take — this is the most drastic action we can take,” Cuomo said Friday at a news conference in Albany, N.Y. On Thursday, Cuomo ordered 75% of non-essential workers to stay home, but he upped that to a blanket order. Businesses that can still have employees come in include grocery stories and restaurants offering take-out service, as well as pharmacies and banks.

Cuomo said he had also asked internet service providers to increase data capacity for customers at no charge because so many residents are now working from home and relying on broadband networks.

Cuomo’s move follows the decision by Los Angeles County officials to issue a similar “safe at home” order for residents as of Thursday evening. It also comes as the number of coronavirus cases in New York has surged this week to more than 7,000, Cuomo said.

In discussing the definition of non-essential services, he cited “luxury” services. “I want to get a massage — that’s not an essential service,” he said.

Cuomo addressed criticism that has surfaced in the past few days that the business shutdowns were an overreaction that would hurt the state’s economy in the long run.

“I believe that these policies will save lives,” Cuomo said. “I’m not willing to put a price on human lives.”

The limitations on movement in public spaces enacted in Los Angeles and New York drew praise on Friday from President Donald Trump at another coronavirus news conference. Trump’s handling of the response to the fast-moving pandemic crisis has been soundly criticized by public health experts, following his early comments that dismissed the severity of the threat. In recent days, Trump’s repeated references to coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” has been condemned as racist and inflammatory.

“I applaud them. They’re taking strong bold steps, and I applaud them,” Trump said of the moves by California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Cuomo.

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