New York City is about to begin considering a 'shelter-in-place' initiative to combat the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that he was about to enter talks with the state to hopefully make a decision within "48 hours."
He told reporters that he was personally conflicted as to whether such an order is "the right thing to do," noting that he is not aware of any precedent for such a measure in the city's history.
While taking questions, he repeated his administration's concerns about the vast ramifications of ordering New Yorkers to stay indoors. He noted that similar orders in both California and Italy allowed exceptions for people needing to visit grocery stores, pharmacies and/or laundromats.
"The actions we would have to take to compensate would be immense," de Blasio said. "That is a plan we don't have because it's never been done before. This is not a simple decision. ...We have not gotten to a decision as to whether it's the right thing to do."
Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed the possibility of a shelter-in-place order Tuesday morning, saying it would be superfluous without collaboration from other states in the region.
"I'm resistant to nothing," Cuomo said. "Whatever we do we will do statewide. Ideally, whatever we do we will do regionally with the other states. ...You say to me in Nassau County, 'You have to shelter-in-place.' I say, 'Fine, I'm going to go stay with my brother in Westchester.' You say, 'All of New York, you have to shelter in place.' I say fine, 'I'll go stay with my cousin in New Jersey.' That makes the situation worse, not better."
The state reported Tuesday afternoon that the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases had increased to over 1,700 statewide, more than 800 of which were in New York City's five boroughs.
Chief among de Blasio's concerns about shelter-in-place was a worsening economic impact on vulnerable New Yorkers, many of whom are already out of work.
"We can do a lot to stop evictions..." the mayor said. "But food — you've got to pay for food; you need medicine. We have to create backup systems on the public side."
He added that people impacted by COVID-19 will need more than a check from the federal government to get back on their feet. He criticized the federal government for its lack of a plan and for dragging its feet, even at this crucial point in the pandemic.
States are being left to scramble, with little outside support. "I just think it's decision-time," he said.
Earlier in the week, de Blasio took another swipe at the White House for not deploying the military to help set up medical facilities and distribute supplies in areas hard-hit by the virus. Instead, the military remains at the U.S.-Mexico border, building the border wall.
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