New York, April 17 : New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has extended till May 15 the shutdown in the state that is the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic with 223,231 cases and 14,198 deaths.
He made the announcement on Thursday before US President Donald Trump’s scheduled videoconference with governors to discuss easing restrictions to restart the economy and issue new guidelines.
Cuomo said that he decided to extend the restrictions known as “NY on Pause” that was to have been in force till April 29 because the state has not yet gained full control of the pandemic even though the rate of new infections has been coming down.
He said, “although we can control the beast, we need to get that infection rate down even more and we are not there yet.”
“We have to continue doing what we’re doing. I’d like to see that infection rate get down even more,a he said.
Although he said that he was extending the shutdown in coordination with other governors in the Northeast region, so far only New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has made any announcement.
At his news conference he announced only the closing schools till May 15, and was silent about other restrictions.
New York restrictions that closes down educational institutions and non-essential businesses, mandates social distancing and from Friday require everyone to wear masks when they are outside covers its population of 19.5 million with nearly 45 per cent in New York City.
Cuomo said that he did not know what will happen after May 15, but “we will see depending on what the data shows.”
As for reopening the state, he said, “Unpausing New York and reopening our economy is going to be an ongoing process over the coming weeks that we’re working through with other states, but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t drive up the infection rate and create a second wave of the virus.”
Cuomo said that decisions on opening the state would depend on which are essential and which can be opened safely in a manner that they don’t spread infections.
He and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio have been at loggerheads over school closings.
The mayor wants to close city schools for the rest of the academic year which ends June 28. The governor says that only he can decide and for now it will be in force only till May 15.
Trump said on Tuesday that he will be issuing new guidelines for reopening the US economy battered by the restrictions to fight the pandemic.
But he said that it will be up to the governors to implement them.
Trump said that in the diverse nation the levels of infection varied from state to state and area to area within them and, therefore, there would be different timetables for different areas of the country.
Trump’s suggestions for opening up the economy has met with criticism that it may happen prematurely and cause COVID-19 to flare up again.
By announcing the extension before Trump’s meeting, Cuomo appears to preempt any proposals from the president for New York that he is against.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed @arulouis)