ALBANY — By executive order, Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated all private businesses have only 50 percent its workers physically report to work, with the rest working from home.
The goal is to reduce density and slow the spread of COVID-19, and builds on previous measures like limiting crowds and closing bars, restaurants and schools across the state. Essential services like food suppliers and health care facilities are exempt. Previously, the governor mandated all municipalities cut their onsite workforces by 50 percent, with essential services like public safety being exempt.
“I understand this is a burden to businesses. I understand the impact on the economy but in truth we are past that,” he said. “There is going to be an impact on the economy not just here in New York but across the country and we are going to have to deal with that crisis but let’s deal with one crisis at a time and the crisis at hand is a public health crisis.”
The state Department of Labor has waived the seven day waiting period for people who are laid off and the Legislature prepared on Wednesday to approve a version of paid sick leave for workers who are quarantined.
As of Wednesday morning, there are 2,382 confirmed cases in New York state with 549 requiring hospitalization and 16 deaths. There are 6,994 confirmed across the country.
The governor also said the USNS Comfort, a floating hospital with 1,000 beds, will dock in New York Harbor outside New York City to help beef up the number of available beds as the number of positive cases of coronavirus peaks sometime within the next 45 days. The Army Corps of Engineers will also be exploring how to manufacture more hospital beds and what facilities or buildings in New York state could be retrofitted to accommodate such a triage operation.
“You have seen the curve and we can’t handle the current number of cases at the current rate,” he said.
He ruled out imposing shelter in place because, he said, for it to work the “geographic footprint” would have to be large enough and it would require shutting down food supplies, transportation and all businesses.
On a positive note, he said the first case in New York state, a 39-year-old health care worker, has recovered from the virus after spending two weeks at home.
“Which means she has resolved the virus in her body, and with 80 percent of the people that is what will happen,” he said. “This is a public health crisis, but worse than the virus is the fear we are dealing with and the rumors. People will get ill, they will resolve and the people who are vulnerable will have to be protected.”
In all, as of Wednesday, 108 people who tested positive have recovered.