New York Gov. Cuomo bans gatherings of 500 or more amid outbreak

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New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo briefing on updates on spread of covid-19 in New York State at NYPA White Plains Office.

Lev Radin | Pacific Press | Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on gatherings of 500 or more people across the state as public officials try to contain a fast-moving coronavirus outbreak that has infected at least 328 people in New York.

Cuomo said the state was trying to limit the contagion by reducing “density,” or events where a large number of people gather in a close environment.

“So, we’re going to take very dramatic actions in that regard to reduce the number of people in a contagious environment,” Cuomo said during a press briefing on Thursday. “No gatherings with 500 people or more.”

The rules take effect at 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, except for Broadway theaters in Manhattan, which will need to adhere by the rules starting at 5 p.m. tonight, he said. 

Schools, hospitals, nursing homes and mass transit facilities will be exempt from the order, he said. 

Facilities that have have an official occupancy capacity of 500 or fewer will need to reduce their capacity by 50% he said.

“From zero to 500, we’re reducing the capacity by 50%, so 50% of your seated capacity is the new capacity for a facility,” he said. “Any business that can’t maintain their current occupancy or the new occupancy rules with that diligent cleaning, they should contact Empire State Development.”

Businesses will get a “closed order,” directing them to close from Empire State Development, he said, adding that the formal order is necessary for legal reasons. 

Cuomo said he’s working with hospitals across the state to build “surge capacity” to handle a massive influx of patients. State officials are also weighing canceling elective surgeries and asking former doctors and nurses to reconnect with old hospitals to be on-call in case they are needed.

This is breaking news. Check back here for updates.

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