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Cuomo mandates NY businesses keep some workers at home during coronavirus outbreak

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo is mandating businesses to keep at least half of their workforces at home in an attempt to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Cuomo on Wednesday issued an executive order to require that no more than 50% of a company's employees can report for work outside of their homes. Essential services, such as banks, grocery and food production, healthcare providers, media, pharmacies, shipping, warehousing and utilities, are exempt from the mandate.

The order takes effect on Friday, March 20. 

There has already been a statewide shutdown of casinos, gyms and movie theaters. Bars and restaurants are closed for dine-in customers, but can be open for carryout and delivery services. 

At a press conference in Albany, Cuomo acknowledged the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on the national and state economies. However, he believes the focus needs to be on the growing public health crisis. 

"Once we get past that, then we'll deal with the economic crisis," he said. 

The latest executive action comes as confirmed coronavirus cases in New York increased by 73% and the number of hospitalizations doubled since Tuesday. The spike in confirmed cases is largely due to the testing being conducted by state and private laboratories. 

Between the governor's last update Tuesday and the press briefing Wednesday, New York labs tested 4,482 people. Since the start started testing for the coronavirus, samples have been collected from 14,597 people. 

With a rise in hospitalizations, hospital capacity remains a concern. New York has 53,000 hospital beds and 3,000 beds in intensive care units. Cuomo on Tuesday revealed projections that show COVID-19 won't peak in New York for another 45 days and as many as 110,000 beds and 37,000 ICU beds will be needed to care for the patients who contract the virus. 

Cuomo said he had a phone call with hospital administrators on Tuesday and the state is waiving health department regulations. Temporarily halting the regulations will allow the hospitals to expand capacity. The state is also seeking to add medical staff, including asking retired doctors and nurses to temporarily return to work. 

The federal government is assisting the state with its plan to expand hospital capacity. Cuomo said he had a conversation with President Donald Trump about the state's needs. 

Trump is sending the USNS Comfort, a U.S. Navy hospital ship, to New York. After requesting the Army Corps of Engineers' help with setting up temporary hospitals, Cuomo said he will meet with the agency Wednesday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also providing assistance to the state. 

"We can't build new hospitals in 45 days," Cuomo said. "The federal government can be extremely helpful here, and we need the federal government's help." 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at

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