Events with 500 or more individuals in attendance to be cancelled or postponed
Any gathering fewer than 500 individuals in attendance will be required to cut capacity by 50%
New limits on visitations to nursing homes – only medically necessary visits will be allowed to protect most vulnerable
During a novel coronavirus briefing Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state will institute limits on mass gatherings, directing events with 500 or more individuals in attendance to be cancelled or postponed.
Public health experts agree mass gatherings with people making sustained close contact are a place where the novel coronavirus can easily infect many people quickly and continue its spread. As such, events, gatherings or places of business with less than 500 individuals in attendance will be required to cut capacity by 50%, with exceptions being made for spaces where individuals do not make sustained close contact, such as schools, hospitals, public buildings, mass transit, grocery stores and retail stores.
These new regulations will go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, March 13, with the exception of Broadway Theaters, where the limits went into effect this evening.
In an effort to protect some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, Cuomo also announced only medically necessary visits will be allowed at nursing homes. This policy will be effective at 5 p.m. Friday. The state is also asking nursing homes to set up Skyping and other online communication capacity so families can televisit their loved ones. Additionally, the state will require health screenings for all nursing home workers each day when they enter a facility, and require them to wear surgical masks to guard against any potential asymptomatic spread.
In order to increase testing capacity, New York is contracting with BioReference Laboratories to run an additional 5,000 tests per day on top of what the state is already doing. These additional 5,000 tests per day will come online next week.
This additional testing capacity is on top of the 28 private labs the governor announced are partnering with the state in the coming days and weeks. Additionally, Cuomo announced the first public drive-through testing facility on the East Coast will start testing people tomorrow in New Rochelle. Testing will be done by appointment only. New Rochelle residents who have been quarantined will be tested first.
Finally, the governor confirmed 109 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 325 confirmed cases. Of the 325 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
"The spread of this coronavirus is not going to stop on its own, and we know that mass gatherings have been hotspots for the virus to infect large numbers of people quickly," Cuomo said. "To help contain it, we are instituting limits on large events as well as new measures to protect our most vulnerable populations – including people in nursing homes – and preparing our health care system to be able to deal with any future capacity issues.
“While the context is key and the anxiety is outpacing the facts of this situation, we will continue taking aggressive action to protect public health and prepare for any future spread of this virus."
New York State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Our No. 1 priority is protecting the public health, and every action the governor and the state of New York have taken thus far have been in furtherance of that goal. Public health experts have been clear that limiting large public gatherings where there is potential for close contact is a critical way to slow the spread of this virus. This regulation will help keep people healthy and safe."
The governor also announced New York is taking measures to create a reserve workforce of health care professionals in the event of a staffing shortage, and identify state facilities that can be used as temporary hospitals. The state is asking former doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to reconnect with their former employers and offer to work on an on-call basis in the cases of a staffing shortage.
New York is also identifying National Guard medics for reserved staffing and contacting medical schools to identify possible reserve health care professionals. Additionally, the Department of Health is accelerating regulations to get more health care personnel trained so they can work in other areas.
For all schools in communities with the highest rates of positive cases, the state will be taking proactive steps to implement protocols that limit mass contact. Cuomo announced SUNY Albany will cancel in-person classes for the rest of the semester, effective tomorrow, after a positive case was confirmed today.
Additionally, any business that cannot accommodate rigorous cleaning standards should contact Empire State Development at 212-803-3100 for a close order.
•Acting Niagara County Sheriff Michael J. Filicetti determined that, due to continuing concerns relating to the COVID-19 virus, the Niagara County Correctional Facility will temporarily suspend all inmate visitation and programming until further notice.
Legal representation will continue through non-contact visits for attorneys following a medical screening.
Inmates, friends and family are asked to use video visitation and phone services during this temporary suspension of these activities. Effective Tuesday, March 17, phone services will be available at a reduced rate.
A press release stated, “These actions are not being taken due to a reported or suspected case of coronavirus and are being taken in an effort to assist in New York state’s initiative to reduce the spread of this virus.
“The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office places a high priority on the health and wellness of the inmates and staff working within the Correctional Facility and these steps were necessary to ensure a safe environment.”