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1:30 p.m. Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will issue an executive order requiring all New Yorkers to wear masks or mouth and nose coverings when they are in public and cannot maintain social distancing of at least six feet.
Masks and coverings will be required on all public transit as well as busy streets, Cuomo said during a press briefing on Wednesday.
Following the governor's announcement, Patrick Foye, the MTA chairman, said all transit riders will be required to wear a face covering effective this Friday.
"We commend the Governor for his leadership in ensuring a safe environment for the essential workers riding with us," Foye said in a statement. "We remind New Yorkers to stay home and observe social distancing measures whenever possible. Walk down the platform, board a different train car or wait for the next train or bus where possible—we all need to change our behavior to protect each other.”
Cuomo said the masks could be scarves or bandanas. His executive order will take effect at 8 p.m. on Friday.
While individual cities have issued mask or facial covering recommendations, Cuomo now becomes the first governor to issue a statewide mandate on masks. Last week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered all residents to wear masks in grocery stores.
Earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio advised residents to wear face coverings when they go outside and expect to be in proximity with other people. On Wednesday, he urged supermarkets to require customers to wear face coverings.
Cuomo said no one would go to jail for not complying, but he said there was the possibility of a civil penalty.
"Stopping the spread is everything. How can you not wear a mask if you're going to be near somebody?" he said, adding, "I hope New Yorkers will do it because it makes sense."
The new policy comes as infections show signs of waning and New York prepares to enter what the governor has described as "the new normal."
Cuomo pointed to several encouraging signs on Wednesday: The number of total hospitalizations have remained relatively flat, while the number of new intubations is also down. And the three-day average of the net change in hospitalizations fell for the first time since the crisis began.
Still another roughly 2,000 people in the state were hospitalized for COVID-19. And the daily death toll has stayed high, with 752 new deaths recorded across 707 hospitals and 45 nursing homes.
With a vaccine not expected to be approved for use until at least a year from now, Cuomo said that any recovery plan will hinge on the federal government helping badly impacted states fund and rollout a widespread testing program.
"We can’t do it yet," Cuomo said. "That is the unvarnished truth."
Although New York has to date performed more than 500,000 tests, more than any state in the country, reopening the economy would require millions of different type of tests—from diagnostic tests that indicate whether a person is currently infected to antibody tests that show if an individual has recovered—as well as contact tracing.
The state's Department of Health has developed its own antibody test which uses a finger prick. The state will begin with performing 2,000 tests a day. It asked the FDA to expand that number to 100,000 tests a day.
On Wednesday, he sketched out a phased reopening with gradual increases in economic activity. Under the plan, the state would prioritize the reopening of businesses that provide essential goods or services and have the least risk of spreading infection.
Cuomo described the process as "building a bridge" to a "new normal."
"This is the way of the world," he said. "We’re moving to a new place, a challenging place but potentially a better place."
City Council Will Meet Remotely For First Time In History
12:00 p.m. In an unprecedented measure, the City Council will meet remotely for its next scheduled meeting on April 22nd.
Council members have been working from home since March 16th, when Speaker Corey Johnson canceled all hearings and staff meetings due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
“It isn't easy to get an 82 year-old legislative body up and running remotely for the first time in its history, but I am proud of the work that the staff put in to make this happen in a secure and publicly accessible fashion," Johnson said, in a statement. "I speak for all members in saying we are eager to resume legislating for the people of New York. The coming weeks and months will not be easy for us a city, but I can guarantee that the Council will do everything in its power to help us weather this difficult time."
The move to start remote meetings comes as budget negotiations are expected to begin. The mayor has said that he will release the executive budget plan on April 23rd. He has already introduced a first round of cuts totaling $1.3 billion.
Members of the public will be able to watch the proceedings live on the Council's website.
De Blasio Announces $170 Million Food Plan, Advises Supermarkets To Require Customers To Wear Face Coverings
10:30 a.m. In response to the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic, New York City will spend $170 million to distribute meals to vulnerable New Yorkers.
"We will not let anyone go without food. We have to make sure everyone gets that message," Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his press briefing on Wednesday.
Prior to the coronavirus crisis, 1.2 million New Yorkers were described as food insecure.
Beginning with the launch of the Department of Education's grab-and-go meals, the de Blasio administration has been steadily expanding food distribution. Since March 16th, the city has served 4.5 million meals to New Yorkers, including 300,000 meals to seniors.
De Blasio acknowledged that federal stimulus funding will help alleviate some of the financial struggles felt by New Yorkers, but that not all residents may be eligible. (Those eligible, and who have previously provided their banking information to the IRS, likely saw this money deposited today.)
In the month of April alone the city expects to serve 10 million meals. He projected that the number of meals would rise to between 10 million to 15 million in May.
Of the $170 million, $50 million will be set aside to establish an emergency food reserve. The city will buy 18 million shelf stable meals.
As part of the effort, the city has hired 11,000 drivers licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission to help deliver meals to homebound New Yorkers.
In another announcement, the mayor said he was strongly urging supermarkets to require all customers to wear face coverings. Earlier this month, the city advised all New Yorkers to wear face coverings when they go to places where they will be near other people.
He said that the NYPD would help supermarkets enforce the rule and encouraged New Yorkers to call 311 should they see noncompliance.
"This is another one of the things we have to do to protect each other," de Blasio said.
De Blasio Says NYC Has Lost As Much As $10 Billion From Crisis
New York City has lost tax revenues of between $5 billion to $10 billion due to the coronavirus crisis, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
A March 23rd estimate by Scott Stringer, the city's comptroller, had pegged city losses as between $4.8 billion to $6.0 billion.
Speaking on CNN Wednesday morning, the mayor said the city would need more federal stimulus funding going forward.
"We’re not going to be able to provide basic services if we don’t get help from the federal government," he said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly said that New York state was shortchanged by the latest $2 trillion stimulus package that Congress passed last month.
A Kaiser Health News analysis found that New York is getting $12,000 per coronavirus case, compared to $300,000 per case for states that have been only lightly impacted by the pandemic such as Minnesota, Nebraska and Montana.
The National Governors Association have called on Congress to provide state with an additional $500 billion in assistance. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of elected officials from New York and New Jersey have asked for another emergency round of funding of at least $40 billion whose allocation would be based on infection rates.
To help meet the city's fiscal needs, Mayor de Blasio recently laid out a plan to reduce the city's budget by $1.3 billion. It is expected to be only the first round of spending cuts. In step reserved for only the most dire emergencies, the city is considering borrowing to pay for its operational expenses.
De Blasio plans to unveil his executive budget later this month.