Andrew Cuomo is ordering everyone to wear face masks in public as part of a plan to start reopening New York

REUTERS/Lucas JacksonDr. Greg Gulbransen reacts after a telemedicine call while maintaining visits with both his regular patients and those confirmed to have the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at his pediatric practice in Oyster Bay, New York, April 13, 2020.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday that he was signing an executive order directing all state residents to wear face masks in public to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The order will go into effect on Friday.
  • He also outlined a plan to reopen the economy in phases, based on strict testing, tracing, and isolating of those infected. He outlined the decision matrix the state would use to reopen businesses.
  • 752 patients with COVID-19 died on Tuesday in New York, but hospitalizations have declined in the state.
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is signing an executive order directing everyone to don a face mask, bandana, or other cloth covering when in public.

“If you are going to be in a situation, in public, where you come into contact with other people in a situation that is not socially distanced, you must have a mask or a cloth covering nose and mouth,” Cuomo said on Wednesday afternoon from Albany.

Cuomo said he’d leave enforcement up to local jurisdictions, though no civil penalties or fines would be levied against those not wearing masks unless there is widespread noncompliance. He added that people should wear masks in places like public transportation or crowded intersections, but it was not necessary for more remote areas where there were fewer people and effective social distancing could be maintained.

The order will take effect on Friday.

Here are the other key takeaways from Cuomo’s daily update:

  • The total number of hospitalizations is down, building off positive trends over the past few days.
  • As of Wednesday morning, there were 18,335 patients hospitalized (362 fewer than the day before), 5,205 in ICUs (20 fewer than the day before), and 526,012 tests conducted to date. 2,253 New Yorkers were diagnosed with COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to the state’s Department of Health.
  • Despite those positive signs, 752 New Yorkers died as a result of coronavirus since Tuesday, bringing the total number of deaths to 11,586.
  • Cuomo said the state was working to bring its data on COVID-19 deaths in line with new CDC guidelines, which count “probable” coronavirus deaths, or people who died outside of hospitals or nursing homes where they were tested and their symptoms tracked.
  • Cuomo said reopening the economy would come in phases and depend on widespread access and ability to test, trace, and quarantine those showing symptoms or testing positive.
  • The state has developed a matrix to reopen businesses. They will be judged on how “essential” their services are by the state – with an eye toward deeming another tranche of businesses essential – and how much of a risk the businesses pose to reinfecting people and spreading the virus.
  • Cuomo said the pandemic – and the effect on the economy – wouldn’t be over for at least 12 to 18 months, until we have a vaccine or at least therapeutic treatments for sick patients, but testing and tracing can help start to reopen the economy and “build a bridge” to a “new normal.”
  • Cuomo said New York could serve as a “lab” for testing vaccines.
  • Cuomo said the state would be able to test 2,000 people a day for COVID-19 antibodies, which indicates whether someone had the virus already. The state asked the FDA for approval for a test that could allow 100,000 a day.
  • Boosting the test and trace capacity is difficult as the reagents that power the tests – and the ability to distribute the tests at scale – are hard to come by.
  • “It’s like getting Apollo 13 back to Earth,” Cuomo said.

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