New York bar, restaurant owners could be arrested if they continue serving customers

Coronavirus

New York restaurant and bar owners could be arrested if they refuse to abide by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive order to restrict them to delivery and take-out only.

The measures come as the City That Never Sleeps takes drastic steps to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced a ban Monday on gatherings of more than 50 people. They agreed to close casinos, gyms and movie theaters at 8 p.m. Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Patrons and operators who do not comply with the executive order could face a disorderly conduct summons and, in more severe cases, arrest for not complying, according to an advisory to NYPD.

Along with shutting down public gatherings and spaces, all schools in New York are to close by Wednesday until April 1, an executive order signed by Cuomo on Monday said.

“Every district will be required to submit a plan to ensure children of healthcare workers and first responders have access to child care so these closures do not strain our hospitals and that children who depend on school meal programs continue getting the support they need,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Cuomo and de Blasio had pushed back against the possibility of closing schools in America’s largest and most densely populated city because so many students get their only healthy meals of the day through school. In addition, closing schools means that parents have to stay home or organize child care, further throwing a wrench in normal life.

De Blasio said there will be special sites created for children of crucial health care workers and first responders. The city is working to supply technology to children who need it and is working to provide meals to children who depend on school breakfasts and lunches. This week, schools will be open for grab-and-go meals, he said.

Coronavirus cases have continued rising, even leading “Saturday Night Live” to halt production until further notice, an NBC spokesperson said Monday. The show’s episode slated for March 28 will not air.

“The safety of our employees continue to be our top priority. We will monitor the situation closely and make decisions about future shows on an ongoing basis as further information develops,” a spokesperson said to NBC News.

The state has 950 confirmed cases of coronavirus and New York City has a total of 436, Cuomo said Monday.

Two high-ranking New York Police Department officials, a chief and a deputy commissioner, tested positive for coronavirus Monday, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the matter. An NYPD school safety agent also tested positive, the official said. All three are recovering, the official said.

The New York Fire Department is switching to 24-hour shifts, meaning firefighters work one day, and have three days off, an FDNY official said. Two members of the FDNY have tested positive for coronavirus and 100 are under self-quarantine.

Emergency Medical Services, part of the FDNY, is switching to a platoon response. The purpose of the switch is so firefighters and EMS employees work with the same people every shift and do not come in contact with new people, not including patients, the FDNY official said.

In addition, New Jersey established a curfew that bans residents from being out between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., with the exception of essential travel, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.

“We want everybody to be home, not out,” he said.

New York’s mayor said city officials are considering “everything” in terms of “curfew” or other possibilities.

“It will get a lot worse before it gets better,” de Blasio said.

Restaurants move to takeout or delivery only

Already, New York has shut down large gatherings, including sports events, Broadway shows and the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The subway has remained open to transport those who still need to go to work.

In addition to the changes at bars and restaurants, de Blasio said nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses and concert venues must all close. The order will go into effect Tuesday morning, he said.

“This is not a decision I make lightly. These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker. But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality,” he said on Twitter.

The closing of seating areas at restaurants and bars is all part of the strategy of “social distancing,” or limiting social gatherings. The idea is to slow or stop the spread of the virus by cutting down on large gatherings where people could potentially infect new communities.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published interim guidance Sunday recommending “that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.”

De Blasio said Sunday night that five people have died in New York City, all of whom were older than 50 and had underlying medical conditions.

Already, shoppers across the country have been rushing to grocery stores to load up on dried goods, cleaning supplies and toilet paper.

Steven Sloan, co-owner of the grocery store chain Morton Williams, told CNN the stores will remain open and have been taking care to disinfect. He said items such as eggs, milk, pasta and tomato sauce were being restocked and there were no issues in the supply chain.

“Yes, there will be enough food. We’ve got no sense that there’s a lack of food coming through the pipeline for your basic things,” he said.

Grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and medical facilities are considered essential and will be exempt from any shutdown, Cuomo said.

Hospitals prep for more patients

A second purpose of social distancing is to slow the speed of new coronavirus cases so that hospitals are not overwhelmed by a wave of patients in one period — also known as “flattening the curve.”

At the same time, New York officials are working to expand the number of hospital beds, ventilators and health care supplies to absorb these impending cases.

“I believe on any projection that that flattening of the curve is not going to be enough,” Cuomo said. “I don’t see it as a curve. I see it as a wave. And the wave is going to crash onto our hospital system.”

“We’re looking at an overrun in New York in the tens of thousands,” he added Monday morning.

De Blasio said the city is acting on a “war basis,” and residents will see a “massive mobilization to save lives, to help people through their suffering.”

Response will be on a scale New York City hasn’t seen before, de Blasio said. The city is “retrofitting facilities that have nothing to do with health care.” Officials are trying to add about 8,200 hospital beds.

Four new facilities will be brought online right away, which will be about 1,200 to 1,300 beds. Three hundred and fifty beds on Roosevelt Island that are not being used will be ready in about a week, de Blasio said.

Tents are also being brought in, de Blasio said.

The city will ask for the military medical units to come in as “we need all of that to get through this,” de Blasio said.

About 7,000 beds could be freed up with the cancellation of elective surgeries and expedited discharging of patients in the city’s hospitals, de Blasio said.

“This will be a race against time,” he said of expanding hospital capacity.

Cuomo told CNN Monday he did not have the capacity to build hospitals and called on the federal government to use the Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary medical facilities for that coming increase.

“This is what they do. They build. I’ll give them dormitories (to) build temporary medical facilities, but they have to do it,” he said. “I’m not shy but the state doesn’t have the capacity to build that quickly to that level.”

The governor also asked local governments Monday to “immediately identify a number of beds in facilities that are available.”

De Blasio said he would sign an executive order Monday requiring all hospitals in the city to cancel elective surgeries in the coming days. Ending elective surgeries will allow hospitals to devote more of their resources on treating the expected increase in coronavirus cases.

De Blasio said his power to do so exists under New York’s state of emergency and that his executive order would be worded carefully to allow some flexibility in ending scheduled elective surgeries, but that all elective surgeries would cease soon.

Officials say there will be no citywide shutdown

Yet even as officials laid down strict limits on social life, they pushed back against the idea that New York would — or even could — be completely shut down.

Rumors of such a shutdown spread late last week and over the weekend, forcing an rebuttals from de Blasio and Cuomo.

“By law, no city in the state can close down, can quarantine unless the state government allows it. I will not allow any quarantine of any city or any jurisdiction in this state, so that is not going to happen,” Cuomo said.

“There’s no discussion of closing down New York City, meaning quarantine geographic constriction,” he added. “Closing down schools, closing down large businesses, closing down places of density, that’s what we’re talking about. No one’s talking about closing off a geographic location.”

There has been, though, an increase in unemployment claims, according to a statement from the state’s Department of Labor.

“We are seeing a spike in volume that is comparable to post 9/11,” said Deanna Cohen, department spokeswoman.

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