Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that New York will remain on his PAUSE (“Policies Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone”) plan through at least the end of April, for now. He also chided New Yorkers for not abiding by social distancing guidelines more carefully, and said that fines for breaking those rules would increase.
“Frankly, there has been a laxness on social distancing, especially over this past weekend, that has been wholly unacceptable,” Cuomo said during today’s press conference. “If I can’t convince you to show discipline for yourself, then show discipline for other people. We are serious. If it’s not about your life, you don’t have the right to risk someone else’s life. You don’t have the right frankly to take health care staff and people who are literally putting their lives on the line, and be cavalier or reckless with them.”
Cuomo’s PAUSE plan, which he first introduced on March 20th, requires that all nonessential workers stay home and businesses close during this period; that all schools close; and it creates new rules of social conduct that New Yorkers must adhere. You can get more details about what is involved with the plan here—but Cuomo noted that it’s especially important to keep the plan going forward right now.
“There’s a real danger in getting overconfident too quickly—this is an enemy that we have underestimated from day one and we have paid the price dearly,” he said. “While the numbers look like they may be turning, ‘yay, its over.’ Nope, it’s not. Other places have made that mistake: Hong Kong, South Korea have made that mistake. We’re not gonna make that mistake.”
In particular, Cuomo called out NYC residents for not being more careful with social distancing, calling it a “societal obligation” to stay inside to protect healthcare workers and first responders. He also called on local governments to be more aggressive on enforcement of the rules, because “all the anecdotal evidence is people are violating it at a higher rate than before.”
As a result, the maximum social distancing fines have been increased from $500 to $1,000. But he stressed, “it’s not really about the fine, nobody wants the money. We want the compliance.”
The NYPD has been monitoring social distancing both on the ground and from the air over NYC. At least three New Yorkers were arrested last week in Brooklyn for not adhering to social distancing. On Brian Lehrer last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said one such arrest embodied the spirit of “neighborhood policing” that his administration has pursued. “This is about educating people, helping them understand the new reality, warning them if they’re not following the guidance that they’re actually creating a danger for themselves and others.”
As has been reported throughout recent weeks, people have flocked to public parks during warm weather days, often clustering at a time when experts are begging them to avoid large crowds. They also did so when the USNS Comfort hospital boat arrived last Monday, with gawkers swarming the area to get a closer look.
To dissuade people from clustering outside, Cuomo shut down playgrounds throughout the state, including (more recently) in NYC, and the Parks Department closed all dog runs in the city today. The rest of NYC parks remain open otherwise.
In response to Cuomo’s demand that the city come up with a plan to ease pressure on crowded parks, Mayor de Blasio had closed a handful of streets to vehicular traffic over the past two weeks so New Yorkers could have more space to spread out and walk around outside. Today, de Blasio announced that he was ending that “open streets” pilot program, citing poor attendance and the amount of NYPD resources necessary to close the streets.
Cuomo was asked about de Blasio’s decision to shut it down today: “NYC localities make decisions on their own on local issues. So I don’t have any opinion on what the mayor did.” He then reiterated that social distancing is important and that “individual behavior” was a problem over the weekend. “We change or we’re not compliant on social distancing, you will see the [death numbers] go up again…We have been behind on this virus from day one, and this virus has kicked our rear end. And we underestimate this virus at our own peril, we learned that lesson. Now is not the time to slack off on what we’re doing.”