NEW YORK CITY — All workers in non-essential businesses across New York state are required to stay home in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a press conference Friday morning.
The executive order takes effect Sunday evening, Cuomo said, and comes a day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state’s nearly 40 million residents to stay home. The two states have a combined population of nearly 59 million people, meaning the two orders affect nearly 1 in 5 Americans.
Cuomo acknowledged that his actions “will cause disruption. They will cause businesses to close. They’ll cause employees to stay at home. I understand that. They will cause much unhappiness. I understand that also.”
But, he said, “I accept full responsibility. If someone is unhappy, if somebody wants to blame someone, or complain about someone, blame me. There is no one else who is responsible for this decision.”
The Democratic governor insisted he wasn’t issuing a “shelter in place” order, which he said referred to active shooter situations, but rather the state was “closing the valve” of everyday life to limit the outbreak. He urged New Yorkers to “remain indoors to the greatest extent.”
Civil fines and mandatory closures for businesses that don’t comply with the new mandate will be enforced beginning on Sunday, Cuomo announced.
“These provisions will be enforced,” he said. “These are not helpful hints. This is not if you really want to be a great citizen. These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance. Again, your actions can affect my health. That’s where we are.”
Cuomo, however, said there will be no civil fines on individuals at this time for people who violate the policy. He also announced that he’s going to issue a moratorium on evictions, both residential and commercial, for 90 days.
Food delivery service and public transportation will remain operational, Cuomo said.
New York’s order isn’t quite as specific as California’s, where residents are being told to “stay at home” effective immediately, except for essential things such as food, prescriptions, health care and commuting to jobs considered crucial.
Under California state law, people who violate the order could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and punished by no more than a $1,000 fine and up to six months in prison. But Newsom told reporters Thursday that the order will not be enforced by law enforcement.
Also, where Newsom’s order exempts workers in 16 critical sectors, Cuomo said New York was “working through the list of essential services now.”
“Look, society has to function,” he said.
As of late Friday morning, there were more than 7,000 confirmed cases in New York state, with 35 deaths, Cuomo said. California has reported nearly 1,000 cases and 19 deaths.
President Donald Trump praised Newsom and Cuomo’s actions.
“They’re taking very strong, bold steps and I applaud them,” Trump said at the White House.