NEW YORK CITY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared 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 governor issued the executive order Thursday afternoon to allow businesses statewide to deny entry to any person who does not wear a mask or face cover. The mandate complements Cuomo’s April 15 order requiring all New Yorkers 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 enforced 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, and expires June 13. Cuomo did not address the legislation Thursday.
Area lawmakers Ashby, R-107, and Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43, supported their fellow Republicans’ efforts to rescind Cuomo’s additional authority.
“The changes I am proposing will place the authority to declare states of emergency with our counties and limit their length, all while protecting constitutional rights,” Ashby said. “There will be times where New York will face another great challenge, but I believe this bill will ensure the people remain in power even in times of uncertainty.”
Cuomo is not king, Jordan said in a statement Thursday.
“He’s governor and subject to the same checks and balances and limits of power as any elected official,” Jordan said. “Gov. Cuomo needs to be put in check and his emergency disaster powers — powers that he clearly misused from his nursing home mandate, to shutting down our economy and arbitrarily picking which businesses were ‘essential’ and ‘nonessential’ — must be rescinded, immediately. We also need a thorough, independent state and federal investigation into his irresponsible policy for nursing homes that caused this avoidable tragedy that claimed the lives of our state’s most vulnerable population.”
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.
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.”
To schedule a free COVID-19 diagnostic test, visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov
To see where each region stands on reopening and the complete county breakdown of COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide, view the COVID-19 map and tracker at hudsonvalley360.com/site/covid19.html.
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