The governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, citing "a lack of federal direction and nationwide standards" announced Monday they have agreed to jointly reduce density throughout the region, closing movie theaters and limiting public gatherings to fewer than 50 people.
The federal government has "been behind from day one on this crisis," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "States, frankly, don't have the capacity or the power to make up for the federal government." He called on U.S. officials to coordinate closings across the country, saying state and local leaders have adopted a "hodge podge" of different actions in response to COVID-19.
"We have agreed to a common set of rules that will pertain in all of our states, so don't even think about going to a neighboring state because there's going to be a different set of conditions," Cuomo said during a joint media call with fellow Democratic Govs. Ned Lamont of Connecticut and Phil Murphy of New Jersey.
Effective 8 p.m. ET Monday, all three states will prohibit crowds of 50 or more, including private parties; restaurants and bars will need to close, except for takeout or delivery orders; gyms and movie theaters also will need to close, as will nontribal casinos. The rules are in effect "until further notice," Murphy said.
At a separate press conference later Monday morning, Cuomo said the state was working on a uniform policy to close public schools as well. "We will be closing all schools," he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday urged people across the U.S. to cancel or postpone events with 50 or more attendees for the next eight weeks to try to contain the fast-moving coronavirus pandemic.
"Our primary goal right now is to slow the spread of this virus so that the wave of new infections doesn't crash our health-care system, and everyone agrees social distancing is the best way to do that," Cuomo said. "This is not a war that can be won alone, which is why New York is partnering with our neighboring states to implement a uniform standard that not only keeps our people safe but also prevents 'state shopping' where residents of one state travel to another and vice versa."
"With all we are seeing in our state — and across our nation and around the world — the time for us to take our strongest, and most direct, actions to date to slow the spread of coronavirus is now," Murphy said.
"The only way to effectively fight the spread of COVID-19 is by working together as states," Lamont said. "We have shared interests, and a patchwork of closures and restrictions is not the best way forward. I know that because of this collaboration, we will save lives."
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced similar measures later Monday calling the step "unprecedented."
"I have just enacted an executive order to shut down all bars, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms across the state, effective at 5 p.m. today," he said, adding that the order will allow drive-through, carryout and delivery service to continue. His order also bans gatherings of more than 50 people, and that all restrictions "will be strictly enforced."
Washington state also joined the N.Y. region in adopting similar rules later Monday. Gov. Jay Inslee signed an emergency declaration temporarily shutting down bars, restaurants, and other places of recreation statewide. He also banned public gatherings of more than 50 people.
"Never since World War 2 have we faced a situation like this," Inslee said. "For the next several weeks, normal is not in our game plan."
Over the weekend, Cuomo announced that New York City's public school system will begin to shut down this week to help combat the spread of the new virus, which has infected 729 people throughout the state as of Sunday afternoon.
Cuomo had previously announced a ban on gatherings of 500 or more people across the state "for the foreseeable future." He said the state was trying to limit the contagion by reducing "density," or events where a large number of people gather in a close environment.
Cuomo said Friday that New York was ramping up its testing, having just received federal approval to allow 28 labs in state to begin running coronavirus tests. He said at the time the state should be able to process 6,000 tests a day. The state has been able to run a total of just 3,000 tests as of last week, he said.