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New pandemic phase in New York as schools, restaurants shut

March 16, 2020 GMT
A delivery worker rides his electric bicycle past the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, March 16, 2020, in New York. New York leaders took a series of unprecedented steps Sunday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including canceling schools and extinguishing most nightlife in New York City. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A delivery worker rides his electric bicycle past the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, March 16, 2020, in New York. New York leaders took a series of unprecedented steps Sunday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including canceling schools and extinguishing most nightlife in New York City. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A delivery worker rides his electric bicycle past the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, March 16, 2020, in New York. New York leaders took a series of unprecedented steps Sunday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including canceling schools and extinguishing most nightlife in New York City. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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A delivery worker rides his electric bicycle past the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, March 16, 2020, in New York. New York leaders took a series of unprecedented steps Sunday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including canceling schools and extinguishing most nightlife in New York City. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
1 of 13
A delivery worker rides his electric bicycle past the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, March 16, 2020, in New York. New York leaders took a series of unprecedented steps Sunday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including canceling schools and extinguishing most nightlife in New York City. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state entered a new phase in the coronavirus pandemic Monday, as New York City closed its public schools, and officials said schools statewide would close by Wednesday. New York joined with Connecticut and New Jersey to close bars, restaurants and movie theaters along with setting limits on social gatherings. The number of confirmed cases in New York climbed toward 1,000.

RESTAURANTS, BARS CLOSED

Bars and restaurants will become takeout-only and businesses from movie theaters and casinos to gyms and beyond will be shuttered Monday night throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut because of the coronavirus, the states’ governors said.

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New York is changing its rules to allow bars, restaurants and distilleries to sell their products off premises, Cuomo said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is “strongly encouraging” nonessential businesses to close in New York after 8 p.m.

“Our primary goal right now is to slow the spread of this virus so that the wave of new infections doesn’t crash our health care system, and everyone agrees social distancing is the best way to do that,” Cuomo said.

The three states also will limit social gatherings to 50 people, effective 8 p.m. Monday.

Cuomo directed nonessential state employees to work from home starting Tuesday and said local governments should follow suit.

The virus that has stricken tens of thousands around the globe causes only mild symptoms for the majority of the people who become infected but can be deadly for some, especially older adults and people with certain health conditions such as respiratory illness.

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THE NUMBERS

There were at least nine deaths from the coronavirus in the state, including seven in New York City.

De Blasio said Monday that two more people have died in the city, for a total of seven. There also have been deaths reported on Long Island’s Suffolk County and suburban Rockland County.

The state had 950 confirmed cases Monday morning, with about half of them in New York City. The metropolitan region continues to post the lion’s share of confirmed cases.

Cuomo said nearly 160 people were hospitalized.

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SCHOOL’S OUT

Cuomo said Monday that all schools in New York state will temporarily close for at least two weeks.

Schools in New York City and most other districts were already closed Monday. Cuomo administration officials say they are closing the remaining 14% by Wednesday.

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“If in two weeks, miraculously, everything is fine, I’ll reopen every school in New York in two weeks,” Cuomo said.

The city’s nearly 1,800 public schools will be closed until at least until April 20, the end of spring break, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday.

As the orders went into effect, parents scrambled to balance child care and professional obligations.

“We’re trying to figure it out with the knowledge that this is going to be a real, two-week thing,” at least, said Andrea Ash, a parent in Massapequa, on Long Island. “It’s not like a snow day.”

Ash tried to catch up at midday Monday on emails from her job as an accountant for a film and TV production company as her 9-year-old daughter painted after taking some online classes. She planned to do reading work with her daughter in the afternoon.

“And then, when my husband gets home, I’m going to have to actually do some accounting,” said Ash, whose husband works at a pharmaceutical distribution warehouse.

Ash said she was trying to keep it together with meditation, prayer and “lots of coffee.”

The mayor said that teachers would receive training for online learning this week and that “learning centers” would be set up for the children of essential medical workers.

De Blasio had resisted closing the school system in part because many of its 1.1 million pupils rely on school meals. Free “grab and go” breakfasts and lunches will be distributed to children at school buildings starting Monday, he said.

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WEST POINT

The U.S. Military Academy has delayed the return of cadets from spring break because of the outbreak.

Cadets had been scheduled to return to West Point on Sunday. But academy officials delayed return until at least March 29. Cadets were told to remain in contact with their chain of command for instructions on returning to the academy.

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HOSPITAL BEDS

De Blasio said New York City is in a “race against time” to add more than 8,000 hospital beds in the coming weeks to help meet the predicted spike in coronavirus patients.

The beds will come from a shuttered hospital, a yet-to-open nursing home and other facilities around the city. The bed-creation plan also includes canceling elective surgeries and discharging patients more rapidly when they are medically sound.

“We’re going to need massive medical capacity on a scale we’ve never seen in the history of New York City before,” de Blasio said at an afternoon news conference.

It’s not yet clear how the planned increase in beds will compare to the potential surge in need for them. De Blasio told cable news channel NY1 that depends on many factors, including the effect of social distancing measures.

The city effort dovetails with efforts by the state to come up with a list of dorms, former nursing homes and other facilities that could be retrofitted into medical centers with the goal of creating an additional 9,000 beds statewide.

De Blasio and Cuomo, both Democrats, say they need more help from the federal government. Cuomo wants the Army Corps of Engineers to be mobilized to equip facilities like military bases or college dorms to serve as temporary medical centers. He said failing to act would be “a tragedy.”

“You overwhelm the hospitals. You have people on gurneys in hallways,” Cuomo said at a news conference. “That is what is going to happen now if we do nothing.”

New York state has about 53,000 regular hospital beds and 3,000 intensive care beds.

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MAYOR’S GYM JAUNT

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was savaged Monday for squeezing in one last workout at his favorite gym before coronavirus-related closures went into effect. The jaunt to a Brooklyn YMCA got the attention of city officials, who said the one-time Democratic presidential candidate should’ve known better.

“It’s imperative we all lead by example and do our part. The mayor should not go to the gym right now. Nobody should,” tweeted city comptroller Scott Stringer, a Democrat.

De Blasio, 58, told reporters later that hadn’t gotten a chance to work out all weekend while dealing with the crisis. He said being at the near-empty YMCA would be “a very socially distanced situation.”

“I need exercise to be able to stay healthy and make decisions,” he explained.

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Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz and Michael R. Sisak contributed from New York.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.