NEW YORK – Ban on congregations of more than 10 people nationwide, curfew in place starting at 8 pm through 5 am for the state of New Jersey, bars and restaurants shuttered across the Tri-state, except for delivery; school districts, colleges campuses, courts in New York shut down. Warnings against unnecessary travel, even within town, in Connecticut. Popular tourist spots like Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty locked, off-limits. Broadway goes dark.
Welcome to the new normal in America in the age of the coronavirus: social distancing is cool, parties are frowned upon; home, sweet home is paradise on Earth. Gregarious is out. Introverted is hugely in.
In the month of March, where news of the dreaded coronavirus continues to be churned out furiously in never-ending waves of public announcements by state and district officials, each a piece in a jigsaw puzzle called ‘Lockout’, the battered residents can only grasp at the one sure thing they know: this is not the America they knew last month, or ever before.
While local businesses collapse like paper planes in a storm, the growing fear is one of survival itself, as the rate of infections and deaths continue to soar across the nation, and especially in the Tri-state area. The infects in the three states combined now account for the biggest hotspot for the coronavirus in the United States, surpassing that of Washington state and California.
Mayor Bill de Blasio told New Yorkers Tuesday to prepare for a potential citywide shelter-in-place order. While no state or city mandate has been issued at this time, the mayor said “we are deeply concerned about the direction and trajectory” of infection. A decision would likely come within 48 hours, reported NBC News.
The city of San Francisco has implemented a similar order in several counties to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Describing the city’s plight as a “fast-growing crisis,” de Blasio added more than 100 new cases to the number Gov. Cuomo had given for NYC just hours earlier. By mid-afternoon Tuesday, and as of Desi Talk going to press, New York City coronavirus cases had surpassed 800, according to the mayor. Seven NYC residents have died, along with five others across the state.
Cuomo warned that New York state coronavirus infections may not peak for 45 days, projecting the state could need up to 110,000 hospital beds — a number that simply dwarfs the current capacity, reported NBC. An earlier report said there would be only one bed for six patients.
A total of 10,000 people have been tested in New York to date — and de Blasio announced new partnerships Tuesday that he said will increase the city’s capacity to 5,000 tests per day by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, the number of positive cases in the tri-state area has surpassed, 1,600. New York, mainly the city, accounts for the lion’s share of those cases. New Jersey’s total surged to 267 as of Tuesday while Connecticut has 41 cases.
Adding to the list of celebrities afflicted with the virus, Nick Mulvaney, the outgoing acting White House chief of staff, is in self-quarantine in his home state of South Carolina, after his niece, with whom he shares an apartment in Washington, fell ill and is awaiting test results, according to four people familiar with the matter, reported The New York Times.
In New York City, even as Times Square saw sparse crowds, cultural hotspots were shuttered, including Broadway, the New York Philharmonic, and the Met Museum. The annual Met gala was postponed.
Bloomberg reported while residents are urged not to do any unnecessary travel, supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations will remain open, said Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey.
“Everyone needs to stay in and be safe,” said Murphy, who spelled out the new rules to reporters on a conference call with governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Ned Lamont of Connecticut, earlier this week.
The concerted action echoed a recommendation late Sunday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is among the most aggressive actions nationwide to protect citizens from Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
With the federal response muddled and sluggish, mayors and governors have been on the cutting edge of virus response, but a lack of uniform rules has created a patchwork system across the country. The three Tristate governors are taking steps “amid a lack of federal direction and nationwide standards,” according to a statement, reported Bloomberg News.
“If the federal government doesn’t step up quickly, states are going to be forced to do stuff on their own,” Cuomo said.
On Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s public schools – encompassing some 1.1 million students – will close until at least April 20. California Governor Gavin Newsom called for all of the state’s bars and wineries to close and for restaurants to cut capacity by half, while advising the state’s 5.3 million citizens older than 65 to isolate themselves in their homes.
In New Jersey, Teaneck, with 41,000 residents, was one of the first U.S. towns to ask its residents to voluntarily quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Of 98 people with confirmed cases in New Jersey, 18 live in Teaneck.
Health-care workers are fearful that staffing could become an acute problem at New Jersey medical facilities in coming days because many public schools closed last week.
Also in New Jersey, after two decades of false starts and setbacks, the grand opening of the New Jersey grand American Dream mall’s hundreds of retail stores, restaurants and DreamWorks water park is set to take place March 19, reported Bloomberg.
On Tuesday, New Jersey announced its first death from coronavirus — in the same county where the mall is located. Across the Hudson River in New Rochelle, New York, the National Guard is being sent to close large public gathering spaces in an effort to slow the spread of the outbreak. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning at-risk populations to avoid crowds.
Still, American Dream is moving forward with its plan to open the water park and retail portion.
Meanwhile stores across North America are struggling to attract shoppers now, with the number of visitors down for the fifth straight week. Foot traffic to retailers fell 9.1% in the first week of March, according to location-data provider Prodco Analytics.