Health and Science

New York Gov. Cuomo orders 75% of nonessential workforce to stay home as coronavirus cases surge to 4,152

Key Points
  • Due to the spike in COVID-19 cases, Cuomo ordered 75% of the workforce in nonessential services to stay at home, up from 50% a day earlier.
  • Cuomo also said that he would waive mortgage payments based on financial hardships, such as people who were laid off or work part time, for 90 days.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday ordered 75% of the workforce in nonessential services to stay at home, approved mortgage relief for consumers and waived health rules to increase hospital capacity as the number of coronavirus cases across the state surged to 4,152 — with 1,769 new infections confirmed overnight.

Due to the spike in COVID-19 cases in the state, Cuomo asked private companies in nonessential industries to voluntarily keep all of their workforce home. He is signing a mandate requiring businesses to make three-fourths of their staff work from home, up from 50% on Wednesday. Essential services include food and grocery stores, pharmacies, health care, shipping and supplies.

Cuomo also said that he is waiving mortgage payments, late fees and suspending foreclosures for 90 days for people who have been laid off or who are otherwise facing financial hardships due to the outbreak.

"This is a real-life benefit, people are under tremendous economic pressure. Making a mortgage payment can be one of the No. 1 stressors. Eliminating that stressor for 90 days I think will go a long way," Cuomo said during a news briefing in Albany. "We'll reassess as the situation goes on if that should be extended or not."

"These are major shifts in life, in the most emotional, stressful conditions that you can imagine," Cuomo added.

Stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus: Dr. Leana Wen
Stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus: Dr. Leana Wen

On Wednesday, Cuomo said he's been talking to the Army Corps of Engineers about turning some hotels or dormitories into makeshift hospitals to handle the influx of coming cases. He said the state is projecting that it will need 110,000 hospital rooms by the time the outbreak peaks in New York in about 45 days, but it only has 53,000 rooms. 

Earlier in the day, Cuomo said he was concerned about approving a "shelter-in-place" order for New York City that Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing for, adding, "I spent half my day knocking down rumors that we're going to imprison people in their homes."

"I'm as afraid of the fear and the panic as I am of the virus and I think that the fear is more contagious than the virus right now," he told CNN.

De Blasio said he likes the shelter-in-place order public officials implemented in Northern California earlier this week and thinks it could help contain cases in the city.

Northern California officials announced Monday a shelter-in-place order that will affect nearly 7 million residents of six counties in the Bay Area as the region tries to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. The order asks all residents of six Bay Area counties -- San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda -- to remain home as much as possible. They're allowed to venture out to go to the grocery store, pharmacy and for other essential services.

New York is the hardest-hit state in the country. Cuomo and other tri-state area officials on Monday banned all gatherings of 50 or more people and placed restrictions on restaurants, bars and other places of recreation in an attempt to slow the outbreak.

Cuomo has said he worries the outbreak will stretch U.S. hospitals to their maximum capacity, saying the nation doesn't have enough hospital beds to handle a pandemic.

"We don't have the capacity in the hospitals, we don't the ventilators, you can't find enough ventilators," Cuomo said Wednesday. "I have people in China right now trying to buy ventilators."

He said Thursday that New York health officials have three main priorities: "Flatten the curve [and] slow the spread, increase the current hospital capacity, identify new hospital beds."

Cuomo announced Wednesday that President Donald Trump agreed to send a floating hospital to help the state manage an onslaught of expected coronavirus cases. Cuomo doubled the number of projected hospital beds and revised the hospitalization rate from his estimates on Tuesday, when he said the state needed 55,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients and said the hospitalization rate was 19%.