New Yorkers should be prepared for a ‘shelter in place order,’ Mayor Bill de Blasio says

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Mayor Bill de Blasio updates New Yorkers on the City’s preparedness efforts regarding COVID-19, March 4, 2020.

EuropaNewswire | Gado | Getty Images

New Yorkers should prepare for a “shelter-in-place” order in the coming days as local officials try to contain the fast-moving coronavirus that’s spreading throughout the U.S., New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday, adding that a decision will be made in the next 48 hours.

“We are all deeply concerned … this is quite clear this is a fast growing crisis,” he said at a press conference. “All New Yorkers, even though a decision has not been made by the city or the state, I think that all New Yorkers should be prepared right now for the possibility of a shelter-in-place order.”

There are now 814 confirmed cases in New York City, he said, adding that 248 are in Queens, 277 in Manhattan, 157 in Brooklyn, 96 in the Bronx and 36 in Staten Island. Seven people in the city have died so far, he said.

De Blasio acknowledged that New Yorkers will face “tremendously substantial challenges” under a shelter-in-place order and that he doesn’t take the decision lightly.

“I don’t take this lightly at all. Folks have to understand that right now, with so many New Yorkers losing employment, losing paychecks, dealing with all sorts of stresses and strains, I’m hearing constantly from people who are tremendously worried about how they’re going to make ends meet,” de Blasio said. “In that scenario, a shelter-in-place begs a lot of questions. What is going to happen with folks who have no money?”

San Francisco Bay area officials ordered some 7 million residents to “shelter in place” on Monday, prohibiting people from leaving their homes, except under “limited circumstances,” according to the order. 

People who venture out are expected to remain six feet apart, wash their hands, cover their coughs or sneezes and abide by a number of other restrictions. Non-essential businesses across the state, including wineries and bars, will be closed. But essential services like grocery stores, banks and pharmacies will remain open.

Residents are allowed to walk their dogs or go for a run, so long as they maintain a distance of at least six feet from anyone they don’t currently live with, San Francisco health officer Dr. Grant Colfax said at a press conference Monday.

De Blasio didn’t provide details on what a shelter-in-place order would look like in New York City. He compared the reach of the disease to the 1918 influenza pandemic that infected one third of the world’s population and killed an estimated 50 million people and the economic impact to the Great Depression.

“In terms of the economic dislocation, I think it’s fair to say we are going to quickly surpass anything we saw in the Great Recession and the only measure or the only comparison will be the Great Depression,” he said, adding that the federal government will have to intervene. 

Over the weekend, de Blasio announced a number of measures to contain the virus’ spread through executive order, including limiting restaurants and bars to take-out services only, ordering hospitals to cancel elective surgery and postponing an election. He also ordered New York City schools to close until April 20 at least.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates. 

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