New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a declaration of emergency on Thursday afternoon amid rising numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases across all five boroughs.
“The last 24 hours have been very sobering,” he said. “Yesterday morning feels like a long time ago.”
The decision frees up resources and streamlines the processes for city agencies to request additional funding, such as emergency food contracts for the Department of Social Services.
There were 95 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the city on Thursday, 42 more than they had on Wednesday, he said. As of noon, Manhattan and Brooklyn each had about 25 cases, in addition to 17 cases in Queens, 10 in the Bronx, and 5 in Staten Island.
The city is predicting it could have 1,000 cases by the end of next week.
“Things are moving very, very quickly,” the mayor said. “We are getting extraordinary new information on what feels like an hourly basis.”
“We have to fully understand that this is the shape of things to come,” he added.
The declaration gives de Blasio authority to slash the legal occupancy of bars and restaurants in the city in half.
He read off a list of other potential actions that the emergency declaration authorizes him to take:
- Establish a curfew
- Regulate where vehicles can enter or leave specific parts of the city
- Close down public transit
- Order hospitals to postpone elected procedures
- Ration supplies or impose restrictions on price gouging
- Suspend or limit the sales of alcohol, firearms, or explosives
- Restrict people from being on streets or in public places
- Regulate or close public spaces
- Create or designate emergency shelters
The press conference came hours after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on gatherings of 500 people or more. Large venues, like certain music venues or sports arenas, will remain shuttered “until it’s acceptable” — adding that he suspects “that will be a number of months. “
“We will be working with the state to enforce that new rule,” said De Blasio.
Schools stay open, for now
At this moment, the mayor said that they intend for schools to remain open — though where possible, certain activities will be moved online or canceled altogether. He added that there’s a “potential case of a student at a school contracting this disease.”
They haven’t been able to confirm the student’s status via testing, but expect to have that information later on Thursday. Two schools, both in the Bronx — the Laboratory School of Finance and Tech and South Bronx Prep — have been closed in “an abundance of caution.” Students who are believed to have “tier 1” underlying conditions are being monitored.
He also stressed that they were very concerned about New Yorkers who may be struggling financially as a result of coronavirus, and that they were signing emergency food contracts via the Department of Social Services.
“We are going to lose some of our fellow New Yorkers, that is inevitable,” de Blasio said. “But we are going to fight back. The vast majority of people who are afflicted will survive and fully recover, but it’s going to be a long and painful episode.”
Asked whether New York could face a large-scale mass quarantine like in Italy or China, de Blasio said his administration is currently “wargaming “ different scenarios, and different actions. “I think we can now say, on the verge of 100 cases, I’m very sad to offer that I think we’ll be at 1,000 cases next week.”
As of Thursday evening, 29 people were in mandatory quarantine in the city, nearly 2,000 were in voluntary quarantine, and in what he described as a "small piece of good news," one person had emerged from mandatory quarantine and gone back to their regular life.
He also said that it may be as long as six months until life in New York City goes back to normal.
Cover: Mayor Bill de Blasio gives updates on the city's COVID-19 coronavirus developments at NYC Emergency Management Center in Brooklyn. (Photo: Ron Adar / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)