NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday the city is considering a "shelter in place" order, a decision on which will be made within the next 48 hours.
What is "shelter in place" exactly? Most activity would be limited, but plans would be in place for people to get food and medicine.
The mayor wants to take the drastic action because he says by the end of this week, he's expecting the number of coronavirus cases in the city to top 1,000. He believes more needs to be done to keep people home, although it is complicated because so many people can't afford it.
The shelter-in-place, or widespread quarantine, would have a crushing impact on the most vulnerable.
"How do you ensure not only a consistent food supply, but it gets to everyone who needs it, regardless of ability to pay? We have to figure out that part of the equation. We're not there yet," de Blasio said.
He said he's aware though that even the prospect of a shelter-in-place order may send people scrambling to stores.
"We've seen a huge amount of stocking up. That's my polite phrase for it," de Blasio said. "I am of course concerned. I want to emphasize how important it is to share with other people."
A shelter-in-place would likely include a yet-to-be-created method for making sure people can still get to and from grocery stores and pharmacies, de Blasio said.
"I see the numbers escalating and I'm very concerned," he said.
Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams voiced his support for the idea, releasing the following statement:
"As the spread of COVID-19 continues, our city and state have had to make a number of difficult decisions to impose restrictions for the good of the public's health. While I know that these decisions take much consideration, the truth is that we have been behind when it comes to these restrictive citywide policies.
"It's time for decisive executive leadership. I'm calling on Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to create a defined "shelter-in-place" policy-not a quarantine- immediately, one that is reassessed on a weekly or biweekly basis. Under such a system, New Yorkers who are asymptomatic/non-vulnerable and non-essential employees would be able to leave their home for food, medicine, and light exercise, but the message would be clear: stay home unless absolutely necessary. For the 80-90% of New Yorkers who will not experience the most serious symptoms, the 10-20% who will are depending on our good judgement in adhering to a shelter-in-place strategy. We shouldn't have to relearn lessons from other cities, localities and countries. This moment demands that the city and state act now, and adjust and evolve as needed, to curb a pandemic that is growing by the day."
The mayor said he would be in close communication with Gov. Andrew Cuomo before making a decision about sheltering in place, but when asked at a press conference earlier in the day Tuesday, Cuomo said no city in the state can quarantine itself without state approval.
"I don't think shelter-in-place really works for one locality. I'm a New York City boy, born and raised, if you can't tell, but we're very good at getting around the rules. You know, you say shelter in place if you stay in New York City, I'll go stay with my sister in Westchester," Cuomo said.
Cuomo says a statewide policy wouldn't work either unless other surrounding states do it, too.
The mayor did acknowledge Tuesday night that a shelter-in-place cannot happen without the state being in agreement.
De Blasio also said he's spoken with leadership with the U.S. military about what aid could be brought to bear to assist New York City as the coronavirus crisis worsens.
"We've never been here before," de Blasio said. "We never came anywhere close to this. We'll have to create it from scratch."
On Tuesday night, de Blasio said there were at least 923 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the city and 10 deaths.
The confirmed cases include an NYPD officer who works at the First Precinct in Manhattan. More than 30 fellow officers are out sick. Of those officers, 17 are complaining they have corona-like symptoms, but they have not yet tested positive.
There are also seven confirmed cases within the parish communities of Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church in Woodside and St. Gabriel's Catholic Church in East Elmhurst. Six of the seven cases are from St. Gabriel's Church.
"We will need, quickly, more help from the federal government," de Blasio said.
Meanwhile, de Blasio signed an executive order banning carpooling in rideshare services. The rule allows one person per vehicle, with exceptions for couples who have been together and families. The move is to restrict strangers from riding with one another in a bid to slow communication of the virus.
Alternate Side Parking will be suspended for seven days starting Wednesday and running through March 24.
"Doing it for a week to see how it goes makes all the sense in the world," de Blasio said. He said he wasn't sure however about what the long-term implications would be, as it's important to keep the city clean.
Officials continued to reiterate that New Yorkers who are not feeling well should remain home for 3-4 days and then, after those days have passed, if they are not feeling better, contact their doctors.
Starting Thursday, 5,000 coronavirus tests can be given a day, with the most critically ill given priority. It's a drastic increase in capacity made possible because of a new partnership with BioReference, CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reports.
The mayor has also put a call out to all medical professionals, asking them to help out the city as it embarks on this crisis.
De Blasio warned it will get worse before it gets better, and it's all hands on deck from seeking more help from medical professionals to keeping people at home. It's uncharted territory all in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
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Tri-State Area residents woke up to a new reality Tuesday.
The number of coronavirus cases in New York state has grown to more than 1,400.
Even cafes that have relied on those options in the past are hurting.
"People are afraid and I don't know what is going on," said Harry Sing, owner of Gunhill Cafe.
Sing has prepared his Midtown cafe for COVID-19, stacking chairs and thoroughly cleaning, but he says business is still "very bad."
A few blocks away at Toasties, workers didn't make a penny off deliveries in the first hour they were open.
"By this time, I already have many $300 worth of deliveries," worker Adrian Morales said. "It's been really slow. Like, we barely have people coming in."
Irish pubs are usually bustling on St. Patrick's Day, but would-be patrons were met with closure signs and boarded up windows.
"It's horrible, I'm not liking it," said James Harrison, of Staten Island. "I usually take off every St. Patty's Day so I can party with my family, eat some corned beef and cabbage."
The sidewalks of Fifth Avenue should be full of spectators watching the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, which has been postponed. Instead, the area was a ghost town.
"It's 9/11-ish, how eerie it is in here, walking around," one man said.d
St. Patrick's Cathedral hosted a private mass that was streamed online. Moments before, a woman who wasn't allowed in prayed outside surrounded by security.
A man visiting from Ireland was also turned away.
"It's very disappointing. The city seems to have come to a standstill," he said.
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Some department stores say they are temporarily closing in order to do their part to slow the spread of the virus.
If you've been checking your email lately, you may have noticed store after store shutting their doors. Nordstrom on 57th Street is one of the major department stores to do that, closing for at least two weeks. Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Last Call are also temporarily closing.
"It kinda just becomes a little more real," said Stephanie Monroy, who works in Midtown. "I think we've all seen pictures on social media about, y'know, Times Square and everything slowing down, but working close by and seeing-- I was here for the grand opening, so seeing the amount of people that were here that entire weekend and then closed, y'know? They always have lines for sneaker releases and all these other events they have, so it's a little scary."
"It's kinda nuts, but I feel like it's necessary," another woman told CBS2's Alice Gainer.
Two Macy's employees told CBS2 it's empty inside anyway.
"I think it's about time," one man said.
And while they're out of the store, it's one less thing for them to worry about.
"Once we finally got the email today that it was closing, a few of us were very happy because, you know, we could provide for ourselves if it closed, so we were wondering what about the other workers who couldn't provide for themselves. Then we got a next email that they'll pay us until April 1," another man said.
Consumers are encouraged to continue shopping online.
So how are New Yorkers reacting to all the closures and restrictions?
"I feel like whatever we have to do to make sure that we have as few casualties as possible is what we have to do. You know, I think it's better to know that we can save one person who may not get sick. You know, if that means no one gets to go shopping and we have to stay home and not go to bars, then that's what we have to do," one woman said.
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