New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he is doubling to $1,000 the maximum fine for violating the state's strict social distancing rules during the coronavirus outbreak.
The reason: Too many New Yorkers aren't taking the rules seriously, he said. He spoke less than a week before Easter and two days before the start of Passover at sundown Wednesday.
"It's not about your life," Cuomo said at a press conference in Albany. "You don't have the right to risk someone else's life."
"You don't have the right, frankly, to take health-care staff and people who are literally putting their lives on the line and be cavalier or reckless with them. You just don't have the right," Cuomo said.
At his daily briefing, the governor also announced 8,658 new cases in the state, bringing the total tally to 130,689.
He said 4,758 people have died from the virus across the state, up from 4,159 the prior day. The count of daily new deaths has been "effectively flat for two days," Cuomo said, a sign that the "curve" of the virus in New York might be near its peak.
The daily rate of new hospital admissions has also dropped, Cuomo said. A chart next to him showed 358 new hospitalizations for Sunday, compared with 574 for Saturday and 1,095 on Friday.
Cuomo added that intensive care admissions have fallen, as well. Another graphic at the press conference showed 128 new daily ICU admissions, down from 250 on Saturday.
"The flattening, possible flattening of the curve is better than the increases that we have seen," Cuomo said.
Jim Malatras president of SUNY Empire State College, who joined the governor at the press conference, said the numbers "could suggest that we are indeed potentially at the apex, or beginning to be at the apex, at this moment."
But Cuomo cautioned that "it can still go any way. We can still see an increase. So it is hopeful, but it is also inconclusive and it still depends on what we do."
Cuomo said modelers and the state are now considering what will happen once New York has reached the peak. Some think the numbers could plateau while remaining consistently high, while others think there could be a steep drop once the peak is reached, Cuomo said.
New York, the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S., has struggled to find space, staff and equipment for the thousands of infected patients flooding its hospitals.
The state has worked with the federal government to secure enough temporary medical space, ventilators, protective masks and other crucial infrastructure to deal with the influx. Cuomo, a Democrat, said he will ask President Donald Trump later Monday to let the Navy's 1,000-bed hospital ship Comfort be used to treat coronavirus patients.
New York has imposed extreme measures to try to contain transmission of the crisis. Nonessential businesses have been shuttered, in-person gatherings have been banned, and a statewide order has been issued for residents to stay in their homes except for emergencies or essential tasks.
Schools and nonessential businesses will remain closed until at least April 29, Cuomo said.
But the governor lamented at the press conference that an increasing number of New Yorkers aren't following the measures.
"The local governments are charged with enforcement. I want them to enforce," Cuomo said. "And I want to be frankly more aggressive on the enforcement because all the anecdotal evidence is, people are violating it at a higher rate."
"There has been a laxness on social distancing, especially over this past weekend that is just wholly unacceptable," Cuomo continued. "People are dying. People in the health care system are exposing themselves every day to tremendous risk walking into those emergency rooms, and then they have to go home to their family and wonder if they caught the virus and they're bringing it home to their family."
"If I can't convince you to show discipline for yourself then show discipline for other people. If you get infected, you infect someone else, you go to the emergency room, you put a burden on all sorts of other people who you don't know and who, frankly, you don't have the right to burden with your irresponsibility," Cuomo said.