March 18, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Prompted by the number of coronavirus cases across New York state surpassing 2,000, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all businesses to keep half their workforce home or working remotely.
The executive order — which goes into effect Friday — is meant to reduce density of people and reduce the spread of the virus which has now infected 2,382 New Yorkers and killed 20. In New York City, 1,339 residents have contracted COVID-19.
While the number has drastically risen — the increase is in part due to an increase in testing capacity, Cuomo said. The state has now tested nearly 14,597 people for COVID-19.
Still, he is furthering the state’s action to reduce social interactions and will sign an executive order today directing non-essential businesses to implement work-from-home policies, if they have no already done so.
Businesses that rely on in-office personnel must decrease their in-office workforce by 50 percent.
“No more than 50 percent of the workforce can report for work outside of the home,” Gov. Cuomo said. “That is a mandatory requirement.”
The governor previously enacted the same order to government agencies on Monday.
Essential services are exempt from the order, however. The industries deemed essential include shipping, media, warehousing, grocery and food production, pharmacies, healthcare providers, utilities, banks and related financial institutions and other industries “critical to the supply chain.”
Cuomo acknowledged that the new order will be a hardship for many businesses.
“I understand that this is a burden to businesses, I get it. I understand the impact on the economy, but in truth, we’re past that point as a nation.”
He added that the public health crisis now at hand must first be addressed, before the resulting economic crisis.
The governor also said that the 50 percent reduction may be increased if necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’ll see if that slows the spread,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If it doesn’t slow the spread, then we will reduce the number of workers even further.”
In addition to the reduction measures, Cuomo has announced that effective 8 p.m. Thursday that all indoor portions of retail shopping malls, amusement parks and bowling alleys must close.
In addition, he is working to increase the healthcare capacity in the state and aims to establish 50,000 more hospital beds statewide.
The federal government, he said, is now deploying the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship with 1,000 beds, to New York City.
The governor is also meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers today to discuss ways to increase hospital capacity.