New York's governor just warned that coronavirus closures could last for as long as 9 months, and up to 80% of the population might get the virus

jberke@businessinsider.com (Jeremy Berke)
·6 min read

Andrew Kelly/Reuters

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the widespread stay-at-home orders to help combat the coronavirus pandemic could last for up to nine months, in a briefing with reporters on Sunday.

  • "This is not a short term situation," he said. "This is not a long weekend. This is not a week."

  • "It is going to be, four months, six months, nine months," the governor said.

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Governor Andrew Cuomo said New Yorkers should be prepared for widespread business closures and stay-at-home orders to last for months to combat the surge in coronavirus cases.

"This is not a short term situation," he said in a Sunday briefing with reporters. "This is not a long weekend. This is not a week."

"It is going to be four months, six months, nine months," he continued.

Cuomo pointed to modeling from China, which shows that the US is lagging behind being able to curb the rate at which the virus is spreading in hotspots like New York City.

"The timeline — nobody can tell you, it depends on how we handle it — but 40%, up to 80% of the population will wind up getting this virus, all we're trying to do is slow the spread," Cuomo said. "But it will spread, it is that contagious."

Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers remarks at a news conference regarding the first confirmed case of coronavirus in New York State in Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, on March 2, 2020.

Over 15,000 confirmed cases in New York

Cuomo said there are 15,168 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 76 deaths in New York state, up from 10,356 on Saturday – a nearly 50% increase. More than 9,000 cases are in New York City. To put that in perspective, Washington state, an early hotspot for the coronavirus, has reported about 1,800 cases.

New York state has made a push to make testing more available to New York City residents, opening up a drive-through testing site in Staten Island, which Cuomo said can explain the rapid increase in confirmed cases.

"It's going to be hard, I'm not minimizing it, but it's going to be okay," Cuomo said. "The grocery stores will continue to function, they're going to have food, the transportation system will function, the pharmacies are going to be open. All essential services will be maintained."

While younger people are less at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying as a result of contracting the coronavirus, Cuomo reiterated the importance of staying at home and practicing social distancing to help curb the spread.

"I don't know what I'm saying that people don't get," Cuomo said. "This is not life as usual."

Cuomo proposed closing city streets to make more room for people

He proposed closing some streets in New York City to car traffic, to allows runners, bikers, and others who are trying to exercise and get fresh air to spread out from each other.

"You have much less traffic in New York City because non-essential workers aren't going to work," he said. "Get creative: Open streets to reduce the density. You want to go for a walk? God bless you. You want to go for a run? God bless you."

Cuomo also lent some advice to families who are not used to being cooped up in small spaces for extended periods of time with one another.

"Now you're all in the same place for 24 hours," he said. "I live alone, and I'm even getting annoyed with the dog, being in one place. So think that through, because that is real and it's going to go on for a period of time."

n95 mask
A nurse with an N95 mask.

Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

'Price gouging is a tremendous problem'

Cuomo called on the federal government to order companies to manufacture masks, ventilators, and other medical supplies under the Defense Production Act.

"The federal government should nationalize medical supply acquisition. The states simply cannot manage it," Cuomo said. "That's why I believe the federal government should take over that function of contracting and acquiring all of the medical supplies that we need."

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He said that because states are competing with one another for medical supplies, "price gouging is a tremendous problem."

For instance, N95 masks that the state was paying $0.85 for, are now costing up to $7. On top of that, ventilators range in price from $16,000 to $40,000 each, and New York needs 30,000 — a situation Cuomo called "impossible."

"We can lose lives that we could have otherwise saved if we had the right equipment," he said.

That builds off a point that Cuomo's counterpart in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, brought up on CNN on Sunday.

'If we don't get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die'

"If we don't get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die," de Blasio said on CNN. Like Cuomo, de Blasio urged President Trump to mobilize the military to aid New York and use the Defense Production Act to produce necessary tools like ventilators for patients.

"I can't be blunt enough. If the president does not act, people will die who could have lived otherwise," de Blasio said.

And like Cuomo, de Blasio reiterated that the pandemic will continue to escalate in the coming months. "April is going to be worse than March. And I fear May will be worse than April," de Blasio said on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday.

That being said, Cuomo urged New Yorkers not to panic.

"There's not going to be chaos, there's not going to be anarchy," Cuomo said. "Life is going to go on."

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