Shortly after 5 p.m., Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced schools in New York City would be closing this week.
About 30 minutes later, Mayor Bill de Blasio stepped into the Blue Room at City Hall and announced schools would shutter Monday. Schools will remain closed until at least April 20.
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“By closing our schools now, we may be out for the whole school year,” de Blasio said. The mayor said it pained him to make the decision. It was a decision he made, de Blasio said, not Cuomo.
To cope with more than a million public school students, some with nowhere to go, the city is planning “specialized sites” where children of essential workers can find childcare. He said teachers would be trained this week in remote learning — in the hopes they could begin some sort of remote classrooms next week.
Details on how that would work were not immediately provided.
For days, the de Blasio administration has been under tremendous pressure to shut down schools. Now some, like the city comptroller, the public advocate, and the city council speaker, are asking for more: a shutdown of all non-essential businesses.
Later Sunday, he announced restaurants, bars, and cafes in New York City will be allowed to serve only food take-out and delivery starting Tuesday morning,.
The mayor said he will sign an executive order imposing the restrictions starting 9 a.m. Tuesday. The order will also stipulate nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses, and concert venues close.
Already, Illinois and Ohio have shut down their bars and restaurants.
The mayor did take other extreme measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19 — which he said at the press briefing has claimed the lives of five people in New York City, all of whom had pre-existing conditions.
As for the future of the Queens borough president race, that is up in the air. The mayor is cancelling that special election, which was supposed to be on March 24. He said details would be released soon for potential options for holding the election later, but he did not specify when or if the new election would happen. De Blasio said given the contact an individual might get in a polling place (think poll workers and voters), he could not reasonably continue with the election.
On top of that, the mayor said he would sign an executive order to cancel all elective surgeries at city hospitals.
He also is shutting down all senior centers. They will turn into food distribution centers, where some can get “grab-and-go” meals.
At least 729 people in New York state had contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, by Sunday morning, Cuomo said, 329 of them in the city.
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