New York Locks Down As Coronavirus Cases Rise
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise across the world. Here in the U.S., we have nearly 20,000 reported cases, and at least 260 people have died. New York has the most known coronavirus infections in the U.S. - more than 8,000. Governor Andrew Cuomo put in place new restrictions on gatherings and asked people to stay home starting tomorrow night. New York is one of a growing number of states trying to control the spread of the coronavirus by requiring residents to limit their contact with each other and, in effect, just stay home.
NPR's Hansi Lo Wang joins us from New York City. Hansi, thanks so much for being with us.
HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Thank you for having me, Scott.
SIMON: And what does this new order seem to mean for New York?
WANG: Well, except for essential services, all businesses must be closed starting Sunday 8 p.m. Eastern. Exceptions are grocery stores, pharmacies, public transit. Those can stay open. But Governor Cuomo says this new requirement is not voluntary, and the state is ready to enforce it with civil fines if anyone tries to break it. And it's really the result of, you know, the state gradually building up to this point.
And the governor says the point here is to save lives, lessen the pressure on the hospitals because they're expecting the number of COVID-19 cases to double the capacity of the state's hospitals and triple the capacity of the ICUs in the state.
SIMON: And we've been hearing a lot about equipment shortages at those hospitals. What's the situation now in New York?
WANG: Officials say they can essentially hold down the fort in New York for the next couple of weeks or so, but they're going to need reinforcements soon - ventilators, gloves, gowns, masks. They are going to possibly double the amount of beds that the state currently has. They need about a hundred thousand beds, they think.
And, you know, I've seen a letter sent by the New York State Nurses Association, and they've raised concerns that health care workers are, quote, "directly treating COVID patients." They're being told that they should use bandanas if there are no face masks. And the nurses say that if you move fast, maybe you can produce more equipment, but you cannot replace trained doctors and nurses, who are susceptible and could be at risk for being infected themselves.
SIMON: And more states, of course, are following New York and California with the stay-at-home orders. How are other states handling the situation?
WANG: Well, it's interesting. President Trump said on Friday he's not considering a national lockdown, but you're seeing a state-by-state approach here. In Nevada, nonessential businesses ordered to close through April 16. And the governor says you could face criminal charges if you don't follow that requirement. And in Illinois, Governor J. B. Pritzker put in an order that goes into effect today at 5 p.m. local time. It lasts through April 7. Let's listen to what the governor said.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JB PRITZKER: I don't come to this decision easily. I fully recognize that in some cases, I am choosing between saving people's lives and saving people's livelihoods. But, ultimately, you can't have a livelihood if you don't have your life. Of all the obligations that weigh on me as governor, this is the greatest.
WANG: Governor Pritzker says that law enforcement is going to try to monitor, but he admits the state of Illinois does not have enough resources to police everyone, so he's going to rely on people to be, quote, "good members of their communities and good citizens" to keep each other safe.
SIMON: NPR's Hansi Lo Wang in New York, thanks so much.
WANG: You're welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.