New York needs to prepare for “shelter in place,” Mayor Bill de Blasio says — a move that would ask people to stay inside for anything except essential needs like groceries or pharmacies to curb the spread of COVID-19, akin to what the Bay Area just declared Monday.
The NYC mayor announced at a press conference Tuesday that he thinks a decision could come within the next 48 hours, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reaches 814 across all five boroughs.
But any moves would need to be made with the state government and Gov. Andrew Cuomo — whose office reiterated Tuesday afternoon that it is not considering the move for “any locality.”
“Any blanket quarantine or shelter in place policy would require State action and as the Governor has said, there is no consideration of that for any locality at this time,” secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa said in a statement.
The mayor did not say details on what he envisions in potential shelter-in-place policy. In the Bay Area, restaurants are still allowed to do takeout and delivery, and people can go outdoors to exercise if they practice social distancing, while in Italy, people need permission to leave their homes.
In practice, a “shelter-in-place” mandate could be similar to the guidance that officials are already recommended to stop the spread: staying at home, and only leaving for essential activities like getting food or medicine. Officials also asked that people sign up for text alerts from the city about potential changes by texting COVID to 692-692 (or COVIDESP for Spanish).
Beyond the potential for a bigger citywide shut down, de Blasio said that “all businesses,” including restaurants and bars, should prepare to file all taxes as they normally would — despite repeated calls from restaurant trade groups and industry figures to ease the burden on owners whose businesses are cratering due to a current city-wide ban on dine-in business for restaurants and bars.
Businesses will need to “provide proof of hardship” when they file, de Blasio said at the press conference. “The city of New York does not have unlimited resources,” he said, while calling repeatedly for help from the federal government
On Tuesday afternoon, the New York State Restaurant Association urged local government again to suspend sales tax payments — which are due on Friday, March 20. “The state’s entire restaurant industry is in dire straits,” the organization’s CEO, Melissa Fleischut, said in a statement. If restaurants are forced to pay those taxes on time, “hundreds of thousands of restaurant jobs will be in further jeopardy,” she says.
The New York Hospitality Alliance, a trade group representing restaurant and bar owners in the city, has specified that indefinite tax payment suspension, along with rent subsidies and cash infusions to cover business interruptions, are crucial to ensure the survival of restaurants in the city.
“Restaurant and bar owners are in crisis mode, so coupled with the fact that many won’t be able to afford their tax payments, how will they focus on filing when they are fighting for survival?” says Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the Hospitality Alliance. The situation is only thrown further in flux, he says, with the potential forthcoming shelter in place announcement.
Restaurants and bars were forced to shut down by 8 p.m. Monday to anything except takeout or delivery. The mayor said that during enforcement runs last night, about 10 percent of businesses needed to be reminded to close.
This story has been updated to add a statement from the governor’s office.