New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday banned all non-essential gatherings in the state regardless of the number of people and ordered workers to stay at home indefinitely in a move to help contain the coronavirus.
Workers deemed to offer critical services, such as police officers, utilities workers, health care professionals and grocery store workers, are exempt from the stay-at-home mandate. Restaurants making food for take-out and food delivery services are also considered essential, Cuomo said.
The number of coronavirus cases in New York surged past 7,000 on Friday, making it the hardest-hit state in the nation. Cuomo's order follows California imposing a stay-at-home order Thursday on the entire state of 40 million people.
Cuomo acknowledged that the order could wreak havoc economically, but said it was necessary to deal with the escalating health crisis.
"These actions will cause disruption; they will cause businesses to close, they'll cause employees to stay at home. They will cause much unhappiness," Cuomo said. "When we look back at this situation 10 years from now, I want to be able to say that I did everything we could do. This is about saving lives. And if everything we do saves just one life, I'll be happy."
Withas the virus shuts down much of the U.S. economy, Cuomo also ordered a 90-day moratorium on evictions. The ban applies to both residential and commercial properties.
"I know that we're going to put people out of work with what we did. I want to make sure we don't put them out of their house," Cuomo said. "I understand that may affect [real estate] businesses negatively, and I've spoken to a number of them. I don't know who you think you're going to rent an apartment to anyway, if you kick someone out."
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developmentfor 60 days on single-family homes with loans through the Federal Housing Administration. That would apply to roughly 8 million units, according to HUD.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed enterprises that guarantee many of the nation's mortgages, also suspended foreclosures and evictions for a least two months.
Housing advocates have been calling for much broader protections for renters and homeowners as the coronavirus sweeps the nation. About 43 million households last year were renters, according to the Census Bureau.
–With reporting by the Associated Press.