NYC Mayor: prepare for possibility of shelter in place

Regional News

NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City residents should be prepared for the possibility of a “shelter in place” order within days. Tuesday was the first St. Patrick’s Day in more than 250 years without a large parade in New York City, but that didn’t stop a few dozen organizers from marching in a makeshift celebration as the city ground to a halt Tuesday. State officials scrambled to bring more hospital beds online as the number of confirmed cases in the state rose above 1,300.

The latest coronavirus developments in New York:

SHELTER IN PLACE?

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that New York City residents should be prepared for the possibility of a shelter-in-place order within days.

De Blasio said that no decision had been made yet, but that he wants city and state officials to make a decision within 48 hours, given the fast spread of the coronavirus.

“New Yorkers should be prepared right now for the possibility of a shelter-in-place order,” de Blasio said at a news briefing.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier Tuesday he had no interest in imposing local quarantines, but he stopped short of ruling it out. Cuomo said more restrictions on business would come first and that a quarantine would have to be at least statewide.

Cuomo said Tuesday that citywide quarantines would only encourage people to stay with friends or relatives outside the zone, making transmission problems worse.

Officials in six San Francisco Bay-area counties issued a shelter-in-place order that went into effect Tuesday, requiring nearly 7 million residents to stay inside and venture out only for food, medicine or exercise for three weeks.

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HOSPITAL BEDS NEEDED

Cuomo said Tuesday that demand for hospital beds in New York state could outstrip current capacity by tens of thousands when cases of the coronavirus reaches an expected peak in 45 days.

Cuomo revealed the projections as confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus statewide shot up to more than 1,300. There were 264 hospitalizations and 12 deaths.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

State and city officials are taking extraordinary efforts to avoid a worst-case scenario by slowing the spread of the virus. New York has jointly ordered the closings of bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses with New Jersey and Connecticut, and Cuomo said the states could coordinate on more limitations.

Officials are also scrambling to increase the number of hospital beds in New York from 53,000, with 3,000 ICU beds.

Cuomo said the at the current rate of spread, the state would need 55,000 to 110,000 hospital beds and 18,600 to 37,200 ICU beds

“The numbers are daunting,” he said.

Cuomo said the state also will need more ventilators to help patients breathe.

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ST. PATRICK’S DAY PARADE

Organizers of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade gathered Tuesday for a rain-soaked march up Fifth Avenue with a banner and flags at around 7 a.m., led by police cars with flashing lights, according to Facebook and Instagram posts from the organizers’ accounts.

Images were posted of about 30 people posing with a banner in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan and people marching in the predawn gloom as bagpipe music plays.

Hilary Beirne, chairman of the St. Patrick’s Day Foundation, said about 10 parade committee members marched with an escort from the Fighting 69th regiment to preserve the tradition of “the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade marching on the streets of New York City every year since 1762.”

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UNEMPLOYMENT APPLICATIONS

A sharp increase in laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits strained New York state’s online application system.

The surge came after Cuomo announced the state is waiving its seven-day waiting period for workers to claim unemployment insurance if they have been put out of work by the coronavirus.

Labor officials said they received 8,758 calls by noon Monday, compared to 2,542 calls the previous Monday. Some people complained on social media that they had trouble applying online.

Department of Labor spokeswoman Deanna Cohen said in an email Tuesday there were “glitches on and off due to the rapid influx of users,” but that the system was working Tuesday.

Also, state officials announced they will halt for at least 30 days the collection of medical and student debt owed to New York.

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Associated Press writer Karen Matthews contributed from New York. The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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