ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday extended the “NY PAUSE” directive — mandating non-essential businesses and schools remain closed — another two weeks to April 29 to slow the COVID-19 outbreak.
The move comes after two straight days of data indicating that the disease progression in the state may have hit its peak and is beginning to slow, as the state’s social-distancing measures and shutdown of much of business and daily life produce results.
The state recorded lower percentage increases in new COVID-19 cases and deaths on Monday after decreases in new case and death totals on Sunday. And new hospitalizations and intensive-care unit admissions fell sharply two days in a row.
Cuomo says now is not the time to take foot off the accelerator on the restrictions that are helping to bend the pandemic curve in the state.
“In any event, plateau or not plateau, we still have to extend New York PAUSE because if that curve is turning it’s turning because the rate of infection is going down. One of the reasons the rate of infection is going down is because social distancing is working. We have to continue the social distancing,” he said at his daily COVID-19 briefing in Albany.
Cuomo acknowledged the negative repercussions of the decision but argued that the public-health crisis supersedes it.
“I know that’s a negative for many, many reasons. I know what it does to the economy. But as I said from day one I’m not going to choose between public health and economic activity because in either event public health still demands that we stay on pause with businesses closed and schools closed,” the governor said.
NY PAUSE went fully into effect on March 22, with 100 percent of employees of non-essential businesses required to work from home. The directive also bans non-essential public gatherings like parties. And of course, numerous businesses remain completely closed including casinos, fitness centers, movie theaters, bars, restaurant dining rooms, malls, bowling alleys, amusement parks, barbershops, and hair salons. Those were shuttered in the days leading up to March 22.
NY PAUSE was initially scheduled to expire at the end of March before the governor extended it to April 15.
With this latest extension to April 30, Cuomo is calling on local governments to ramp up enforcement of the social-distancing efforts.
“The local governments are charged with enforcement. I want them to enforce them. I want to be frankly more aggressive on enforcement, because all of the anecdotal evidence is people are violating it at a higher rate than before,” he said.
The governor was referring to evidence of people gathering in groups in parks and outdoors while not practicing social distancing, especially over the last weekend when the weather was warmer.
“So, we are going to increase the potential maximum fine from $500 to $1,000” for violations of the social-distancing protocol, Cuomo said.
New York’s latest COVID-19 numbers
The number of coronavirus cases in New York state rose by 8,658 (or 7.1 percent) to 130,689 on Monday. That percentage increase was down from the 7.3 percent rise in cases Sunday and the 10.5 percent increase Saturday.
New York reported 599 new COVID-19 deaths on Monday, a 14.4 percent increase. That was down from the 16.7 percent rise in deaths on Sunday and 21.5 percent increase on Saturday.
New hospitalizations fell for a second day in a row to 358 Monday from 574 Sunday and 1,095 Saturday. New ICU admissions fell for a second day to 128 from 250 Sunday and almost 400 Saturday. Daily intubations fell even more sharply to 133 from 318 the day before.