New York Governor Asks Bars and Restaurants to ‘Voluntarily’ Close Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Gov. Cuomo's call came after a top disease expert said Americans should stop going to bars and restaurants nationwide.
March 15, 2020, 6:37pm
The Buttermilk Bakeshop in Park Slope, Brooklyn is operating out of their window for now in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as of March 13, 2020. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling on restaurants and bars in the state to close down voluntarily amid growing fears that an anticipated wave of coronavirus cases will overwhelm the healthcare system.

Speaking to a sparsely-populated room of reporters Sunday, Cuomo stressed the need for people to stay home.

“Voluntarily close down. Voluntarily close down your bar, your restaurant, your gymnasium,” said Cuomo. “At one point, people actually react reasonably and responsibly. People say, you know, I’m not gonna go into a bar with 100 other people bumping up against me because it’s too high a risk to have a martini. I can have a martini at home.”

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Calling on bars and restaurants to voluntarily close down is an escalation from what Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered last week under emergency orders. Cuomo announced a ban on gatherings of 500 people or more, such as concerts or sports games, and de Blasio said that all bars and restaurants should operate at 50% of their permitted occupancy.

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Cuomo’s remarks came hours after top coronavirus task force expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that he would not rule out a national lockdown to shut down socializing.

After videos and images of crowded bars and restaurants in New York City this weekend, New York Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez also urged people to stay home.

The mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, announced new restrictions to go into effect Monday, including a 10 p.m. curfew, and a ban on restaurants and bars from serving food. And D.C. officials also announced new rules on Sunday, including shutting down nightclubs, banning bar seating, and issuing specific spacing requirements between tables and chairs in restaurants.

But some, such as California Rep. Devin Nunes, is shrugging off the advice from top medical experts. “If you’re healthy, you and your family, it’s a great time to go out and go to a local restaurant, and it's likely you can get in easy,” he said on Fox News Sunday.

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New York currently has the highest number of cases in the U.S. As of noon on Sunday, there were 613 total confirmed coronavirus cases in New York State — 269 of which were in New York City. There have also been three deaths. The number of people infected is believed to be higher, as New Yorkers with Coronavirus symptoms generally still only qualify to be tested if they came into contact known to have COVID-19 or travel to a high-risk country.

Cuomo said the state officials are particularly concerned about the medical system getting crushed and even collapsing under the weight of coronavirus cases. There are 53,000 hospital beds, and 3,000 ICU beds, about 80% of which are already occupied. While many people with coronavirus will be able to recover at home, elderly cases or people with underlying illnesses may require ICU beds, and ventilators and other machines to help them breathe.

READ: Coronavirus could cause domestic abuse to spike.

Earlier in the day, Cuomo published an op-ed in the New York Times calling on Trump to mobilize the U.S. army to help build and equip temporary hospitals to prepare for the expected wave of sick people requiring hospitalization.

Cover: The Buttermilk Bakeshop in Park Slope, Brooklyn is operating out of their window for now in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as of March 13, 2020. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)