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Coronavirus Update: State Of Emergency Declared In NYC; Gatherings Of 500 People Or More Banned

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in New York City Thursday afternoon.

The move comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a statewide ban on gatherings of more than 500 people, along with additional measures to combat the continued spread of the coronavirus.

De Blasio said under a state of emergency, he has the authority to potentially establish a curfew, shut down traffic in or out of parts of the city, shut down mass transit, ration supplies and more. He emphasized none of those things are being enacted, but they are examples of things that are allowable under the state of emergency.

Large venues like Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center will be likely be closed for months, de Blasio said.  However, New York City public schools will remain open.

CORONAVIRUS: CDC Latest | NY Health Dept. | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Residents Text 692692 | NY Hotline: 1-888-364-3065 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Hotline: 1-800-222-1222 | NJ Coronavirus Tracker | CT Hotline: 211

De Blasio said the city will eventually bounce back from the outbreak, but preserving schools, mass transit and the health care system are vital.

The goal is "to protect those areas no matter what," he said.

"This is going to be a long battle. This is going to be a tough battle," de Blasio said. "It is going to be a long, painful episode."

De Blasio estimated the fight against coronavirus will be a six-month process while emphasizing that no one knows for sure. Officials expect 80% of cases will self-resolve.

"We're getting into a situation in which the only analogy is war," de Blasio said, discussing the possibility of converting parking lots and other areas into makeshift hospitals.

Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability on COVID-19 by NYC Mayor's Office on YouTube

De Blasio said he anticipates New York City will be at 1,000 cases sometime next week.

Two schools in the Bronx have been closed after a student "self-confirmed" for coronavirus, de Blasio said. Officials said the "self-confirmed" diagnosis means the student's parent told officials the child had tested positive. Officials shut the schools, calling the report credible.

The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology and South Bronx Preparatory: A College Board School are both located in the same building at 360 E. 145th St.

The Department of Health is tracking the student's contacts, said de Blasio.

The building is being disinfected and both schools are closed "for an initial 24-hour period."

"We don't make this decision lightly, and we know the disruption and anxiety this means for students, faculty and parents. We are taking every precaution to keep people safe, and we will keep everyone informed as we learn more through the day," de Blasio said.

All Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York will be closed from March 16-20, said Superintendent of Catholic Schools Mr. Michael J. Deegan.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 328 cases statewide - a jump of more than 100.

Gov. Cuomo Gives Coronavirus Update

Updating New Yorkers on the evolving #Coronavirus situation. WATCH:

Posted by Archive: Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, March 12, 2020

"We are not going to shut down a subway system, if you shut down a subway station then you are shutting down the economy and you are shutting down work and livelihood," de Blasio said. "We've been telling employers (to) stagger your work hours if you can. More people telecommuting. Open up the subways, less close proximity. We are going to do more of that in a variety of ways."

Cuomo said venues that can hold 500 people or fewer will be required to cut their maximum number of people in half.

Cuomo discussed the concern of the health care system potentially becoming overwhelmed.

"We're working with the hospitals across the state to develop what's called a surge capacity. How do you expand the capacity in the existing hospital system besides just filling vacant beds? And there are a number of strategies to do that. First of all, we're not doing it today, the health care system should be on notice that we might cancel at one point elective surgeries. Elective surgeries are about 25-35% of the hospital beds, believe it or not.  So if you cancel elective surgeries, you free up a significant amount of hospital space," Cuomo said. "And again, we're not doing that now, but it is something we're considering in our back pocket."

The state Department of Health is trying to get more people trained and certified to work "for example in an ICU unit," Cuomo said.


"We're asking former doctors and nurses to reconnect with your old hospital, your old health care employer, to be on an on-call basis," Cuomo said. "One of things that has happened in China, South Korea and Italy, if you study those models, health care workers get sick and they can't come to work. So making sure you have enough staff and reserve staff is just as important as making sure you have enough facilities. So we're asking former doctors and nurses, contact your previous employer. Department of Health will accelerate your recertification on an emergency basis so if we need you we'll have a reserve workforce."

Cuomo said the state is identifying medically trained National Guard members, as well as people at medical schools, in case they're needed to support the health care system.

"This is all if, if, if, if, if, but that's why it's planning. Plan for every contingency now. Hopefully, you don't have to do any of it," Cuomo said.

Cuomo also said the state was looking to identify potential temporary hospital facilities in the event the health care system needs to be physically expanded.

Cuomo said special attention is also required at nursing homes. All staff are now required to wear masks, be monitored for symptoms, and no visitors will be allowed.

"If you care about someone in a nursing home, the last thing you want is to endanger that person," Cuomo said. "A visitor, a grandchild going to visit his or her grandmother, who walks in the virus, you're not doing anyone a service."

De Blasio said he's hopeful the situation in New York will not come to mirror the one in Italy. On Thursday, officials said Europe had become the new epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic.

"We've been bracing, we've been preparing. I also think New Yorkers and many Americans are adapting in a way that in China and Italy, there was no chance to do. People are really changing their habits," de Blasio said. "But here's the number one thing. And the President said it and he's right. If you are sick stay home. If you think you might be sick stay home. That never happened in Italy, that never happened in a lot of places. We still have a chance to stay ahead of this relative to them."

A "containment area" in New Rochelle, barring large gatherings and shutting schools within a 1-mile radius, took effect today.

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