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Bars, restaurants and all schools in New York will close

Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut made the joint decision to close all bars and restaurants in those states beginning at 8 p.m. Monday to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said all schools in New York state will be closed as of the end of Monday, and the New York State Legislature has postponed its session.

The three governors made the joint decision to close all restaurants and bars in their states effective Monday evening until further notice. There will still be takeout service from restaurants that want to stay open, and rules will be waived to allow takeout alcohol services as well.

All movie theaters, gyms and casinos will also close as of 8 p.m. Monday, and all gatherings of 50 or more people will be prohibited.

“So if you were hoping to plan a graduation party, you can’t do it in the state of New York, you can’t go do it in the state of New Jersey, and you can’t do it in the state of Connecticut,” Cuomo said. 

He said all schools will be closed by the end of the day for at least two weeks. Most districts had already made the decision to shut down.

Workers at all state and local government offices will be asked to work from home, unless they are providing essential services. And all government offices must reduce their density by at least 50%.

Cuomo said he continues to be worried about a surge of sick patients in the coming weeks that will overwhelm the state’s hospital system.

He said because of the lack of federal action on building extra hospital capacity, he’s asking the state’s National Guard to work with developers in the state and the union workforce to identify buildings such as dormitories or former nursing homes that can be rapidly converted to temporary hospitals. 

“I’m asking local governments, especially in the most dense areas, to immediately identify a number of beds in facilities that are available,” said Cuomo.

The governor is also rescinding rules on placement of hospital beds for the time being, allowing more beds into a single room, and reducing regulations on how wide hallways need to be.

The Legislature had planned to come to the Capitol this week to pass some bills to help deal with the crisis, including a paid sick leave bill, but after two lawmakers came down with the virus, the Assembly and Senate announced that they are postponing session until at least Wednesday. 

Both houses said they are trying to adhere to the guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and now the state of New York that gatherings be limited to 50 or fewer people, and only want to bring in legislators when they are ready for a vote on agreed-upon bills.

Tentative plans in the Assembly were to have lawmakers vote 10 at a time, in the chamber, then return to their offices.

Cuomo, who has compared the senators and Assembly members to “soldiers” in a war who should remain at their desks, said he’s disappointed that the lawmakers aren’t acting on a paid sick leave bill sooner. He said the state bill goes further than the federal measure, and would also cover people home on preventive quarantine even if they are not actually sick.

“I’m sure the people who are on quarantine and wanted to get paid wish that they’d voted for the bill,” Cuomo said. “So they could get paid.” 

But the governor said he’s “OK” with waiting until Wednesday for the votes.

Cuomo continued to say that a full state spending plan can be approved, and it could still include legal marijuana, rollbacks to the bail reform laws that ended most forms of cash bail in New York, and restrictions on vaping products.

But that prospect now seems increasingly unlikely. The governor admitted that the anticipated additional health care costs associated with combating the virus will make it almost impossible to balance the budget right now.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.