NY Gov. Orders '100% Of Workforce' To Stay Home

By Jeff Overley and Pete Brush
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Law360 (March 20, 2020, 11:53 AM EDT) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered most workers to stay home as coronavirus infections soared, allowing exemptions only for "essential services," including food and medicine.

"I will sign an executive order mandating that 100% of workforce must stay home, excluding essential services," the governor wrote on Twitter. "This order excludes pharmacies, grocery stores, and others."

Speaking at a news conference, Cuomo said that public transit and restaurant delivery are also exempt. Late Friday, when the text of the executive order was released, it also listed exemptions for utilities, airports, trash collection, mail, the media, banks, construction and child care, among other things.

He added, "These actions will cause disruption. They will cause businesses to close. They will cause employees to stay at home. I understand that. They will cause much unhappiness. I understand that also."

The governor's order applies statewide. As of late Friday, New York City alone had about 4,500 confirmed coronavirus cases, while the entire Empire State had more than 7,000 cases and the U.S. had roughly 19,000 cases.

Cuomo distinguished his directive from a "shelter-in-place" requirement, which he has opposed. He suggested Friday that shelter-in-place would be a more severe policy, and also that he has reservations about creating a siege mentality in residents.

"Words matter," the governor said.

Officials in New York had already been clamping down with increasing severity on public gatherings as the coronavirus situation worsened in recent weeks. Vast numbers of businesses have closed their doors, and the city's subway system is now largely deserted.

Tighter restrictions mean the Second Circuit will indefinitely extend the use of a fully virtual platform for all judges and lawyers to argue appeals remotely, Clerk of Court Catherine O'Hagan Wolfe said Friday. Separately, the Southern District of New York on Friday added new restrictions to its already limited access procedures, according to a memo sent by District Executive Edward Friedland.

California has also had a relatively large number of coronavirus infections; Golden State Gov. Gavin Newsom late Thursday announced a "stay-at-home order" similar to the one that Cuomo issued Friday.

President Donald Trump, speaking at a news conference later Friday, was asked if a national lockdown could be in the offing, but he downplayed the likelihood of such drastic action.

"I don't think so. Essentially you've done that in California, you've done that in New York. Those are really two hotbeds," the president said. "You go out to the Midwest, you go out to other locations, and they're watching it on television, but they don't have the same problems."

Cuomo on Friday also announced a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants.

"I understand that may affect businesses negatively, and I've spoken to a number of them," he said. "[But] I don't know who you think you're going to rent an apartment to now anyway if you kick someone out. By my mandate, you couldn't even have your real estate agent out showing the apartment."

--Editing by Alyssa Miller.

Update: This story has been updated with more details from Cuomo's directive, comments from President Donald Trump and new figures on coronavirus infections.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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