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Cuomo extends stay-at-home order until May 15

Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has extended the stay-at-home order for New York residents through May 15 and is reminding them that the requirement to wear a mask while out in public begins Friday at 8 p.m.

Cuomo says the stay in place orders and businesses and school closures will remain in effect for another month. While the daily death toll, at 606 Wednesday, is down from previous days, 2,000 more people were admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 and 17,735 are still in the hospital with the disease.

The governor said he has received some blowback on the requirement, announced Wednesday, that masks will be required while out in public starting Friday evening, but he says health experts now believe that they help reduce spread of the virus.

“I’m sorry it makes people unhappy” said Cuomo. “But it really is a simple measure that can save lives.”

The masks will be required where social distancing is not possible, as well as on public transportation like buses or subways and while driving or riding in an Uber or Lyft car.  

Cuomo said when it is time to reopen some businesses and allow for more public activities, it will have to be done in a carefully calibrated manner. He said because of the stay at home orders, the virus is likely being transmitted at a rate of 0.9%, which means for every person who gets sick, they give it to slightly less than one other person, on average.

He said if opening businesses or allowing more people to congregate brings that ratio up to even 1.2%, meaning each person sick infects, on average, slightly more than one other person, then the spread could increase exponentially and the health care system could start to get overwhelmed again. The governor says he is not left with “a lot of wiggle room.”

“You start to turn that valve,” Cuomo said. “You see that number going up, turn the valve back right away.”

The governor said businesses can make modifications to keep things safe by continuing to have some employees work from home and rearranging seating to keep people six feet away from each other.

Meanwhile, a survey of business leaders in New York conducted by Siena College for the Business Council of New York State finds that the majority of CEOs want to reopen as soon as possible, but only when public health officials determine that it is safe to do so. Siena’s Don Levy said the poll asked the business leaders about the May 1 reopening date that President Trump has pushed for in recent days .

“A majority, 57% said public health, but still a sizeable minority, 35%  said it’s time to reopen,” Levy said.

Levy said CEOs in manufacturing, engineering and construction were the most likely to say it’s time to get back to work.

The majority, 61%, of the business leaders approve of the social distancing rules that have been put into effect by Cuomo.

Most business leaders are “bracing for a very long haul” in an economic recovery, said Levy. Only around one-third foresee their companies recovering in the next six months, while most think it will be sometime next year. Forty percent have laid off workers, with 10% saying they expect to have to furlough more workers this summer. Ninety percent of the employers, though, remain optimistic about their future and say they plan to still be in business in a year from now.

Nearly all of them said, though, that they are relying on assistance from federal and state governments in the form of grants and tax breaks, to help them get through. Three-quarters said they are trying to take advantage of the Small Business Administration’s paycheck protection loan program, although money for that is already running out of money.

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.