NEW YORK CITY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a new executive order Thursday allowing New York businesses to prohibit customers who do not wear a mask or facial covering to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The mandate complements Cuomo’s April 15 order requiring all New Yorkers to wear face coverings in public when social distancing is not possible.
“When we’re talking about reopening stores and places of businesses, the store owner has a right to protect themselves and to protect the other patrons,” Cuomo said Thursday at the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club. “You don’t want to wear a mask? Fine. But you don’t have the constitutional right to jeopardize others.”
Senate Democrats unanimously rejected Republicans’ proposed legislation Thursday to limit the governor’s expanded powers during a state of emergency and maintain the system of checks and balances. The proposal would have allowed counties to decide to declare a state of emergency based on that county’s circumstances, to limit emergency declarations to 30 days and require the Legislature to approve emergencies that last longer than 45 days. The measure also would have authorized county or local executives to request a state of emergency be terminated, according to a statement Thursday from Assemblyman Jake Ashby’s office.
Cuomo first issued the state of emergency in early March, shortly after the state’s first official COVID-19 case; it expires June 13. Cuomo did not address the legislation Thursday.
New York’s COVID-19 fatalities reached 23,712 Thursday — up from 23,638 Wednesday. Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s online COVID-19 tracker, which includes probable virus deaths in its tally, listed the state’s virus death toll as 29,529.
The U.S. COVID-19 death toll surpassed 100,000 deaths Wednesday, reaching 101,129 as of Thursday afternoon.
The state saw a repeated 74 virus-related deaths Wednesday, including 52 in hospitals and 22 in nursing homes. New York’s COVID-19 death rate remains flat after 74 fatalities Tuesday, 73 Monday and 96 Sunday.
The state tested more than 65,000 people on Wednesday to 1,876,789 total by Thursday, revealing 366,733 total positive cases of the virus. New York’s hospitalization rates continued a downward trend to 4,010 patients, down 198, according to the governor’s office.
Just hours after Franklin County reported no changes in the number of confirmed and active cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Emergency Operations Center announced that a fourth resident of Akwesasne had been confirmed to have the virus.
The tribe’s Health Services reported that the confirmed case involves a community member, who is currently in isolation at home and receiving follow-up care, a news release from the EOC stated.
Health Services is investigating the individual’s case to determine how the person was exposed and tracing those who may have been in recent contact with the person, the release said.
Anyone who was in direct contact during the individual’s infectious stage will be notified and asked to follow protective measures including staying home and not traveling in the community, monitoring symptoms several times a day, and refraining from having visitors.
No additional information about the individual is being released at this time due to patient privacy laws, the release said.
“It is important for community members to please remain vigilant and not let their guard down, while our health professionals and other frontline staff are continuing their efforts to keep all of us healthy and safe,” the release said.
The tribe’s announcement came after both the county’s EOC and County Manager Donna Kissane had separately announced that the number of active case in the county remained at one and the number of people in quarantine or isolation stayed at four. The county has had 16 people test positive for the virus –– the most recent coming over the weekend –– and 94 people are believed to have been infected but have not yet been tested or received their test results.
Those numbers are also unchanged from previous announcements.
Kissane has repeatedly noted that numbers related to the virus can change quickly.
The county as of Thursday had tested 4,022, up from 3,894 as of Wednesday.
The state continues to conduct tens of thousands of COVID-19 tests in ZIP codes of low-income and minority New York City neighborhoods disproportionately impacted with more virus infections to target new cases. Infection rates in some Queens and Bronx neighborhoods were over 40% — twice the COVID-19 infection rate of the city’s general population at 19.9%.
“The new cases tend to come from those communities, so target those communities,” Cuomo said. “Get them help and address the health care inequality that is underlying all of this.”
Northwell Health will work with state officials to target coronavirus resources, including diagnostic and antibody testing, personal protective equipment, health care services, supplies and communication in those communities. The state will deliver 1 million masks to the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods.
Comedian Chris Rock and actress Rosie Perez, both of Brooklyn, will help communicate educational messages about COVID-19 to their fellow New Yorkers, including the importance of wearing face masks and proper social distancing to protect themselves and others. The celebrities joined Cuomo at Thursday’s briefing.
Not wearing a mask is disrespectful to your neighbors and community, Perez said.
“Let’s help fight this virus,” she said. “Get tested — wear a mask. This is not a joke, this is not a hoax, this is real. We will rise up. New York, stand up. America, please stand up.”
Rock estimated he sees about 40% of Brooklynites wear face masks in public.
“Kids really aren’t wearing them,” he said. “It’s sad our health has become sort of a political issue. It’s a status symbol almost to not wear a mask.”
New York City is the last of the state’s 10 regions to meet seven required COVID-19 benchmarks to start reopening nonessential businesses. The other nine regions have started reopening under phase I of the state’s four-phase reopening plan, including manufacturing, construction, fishing, forestry and retail pickup.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees will pilot use UV rays and light technology to kill COVID-19 in subway cars and crew facilities as the city works toward reopening.
“They’re using the best science to get ready for this,” Cuomo said.
MTA crews will continue to thoroughly clean and disinfect every bus, each subway and commuter train daily to curb the virus’s spread.
Congress’ fifth House-passed $3 trillion COVID-19 bill, known as the HEROES Act, sits in the U.S. Senate. The bill would provide billions in assistance to states and repeals the controversial State And Local Tax deduction, which allowed taxpayers of high-tax states to deduct local tax payments on their federal tax returns.
Cuomo repeated Thursday much of what the governor has said for months, pleading with federal lawmakers to fund state and local governments to help bridge billions in budget gaps across the nation caused by COVID-19. Congress’ previous four bills focused on funding small businesses, giving stimulus checks to middle-class Americans and corporations, such as airlines.
“Pass legislation to help working America,” said Cuomo, accusing federal legislators of “buying votes” with their past coronavirus legislation. “It doesn’t mean they should make it gravy-train pork.”
Over the past several days, the governor has suggested major infrastructure-improvement projects and technological upgrades to education and health care to create thousands of jobs as the nation reopens. Cuomo requested accelerated federal approval of plans to renovate the crumbling cross-Hudson tunnels, expand the 2nd Avenue Subway system and construct a LaGuardia Airport airtrain as large-scale projects that could revitalize the state and nation’s stunted economy and benefit the Northeast.
“Do the things you talked about for 40 years but the government was never competent enough to do,” Cuomo said. “Stop the hyper-partisan attitude and gridlock. Put politics aside.”
Kate Lisa covers New York government and the state Capitol for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @KaitlynnLisa