Coronavirus is beginning its spread throughout the country, with cases in over two dozen states, although major cities have so far been the most affected. New York City, in particular, has been badly hit, relative to the rest of the country, with Governor Andrew Cuomo declaring a state of emergency on Sunday.
“I would test as many people as you can test because you want to know,” Cuomo said at a press conference. “There's no doubt that massive quarantine is the best way to slow the spread.” The governor requested that the Center for Disease Control implement automatic testing.
It was just announced this morning that the number of cases in New York rose 35% in twenty-four hours, from 105 to 142. Most of these are clustered in Westchester County, a suburb north of the city, but nineteen cases are located in New York City itself. One of the victims is the Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has encouraged people to work from home in an effort to keep people off the streets. “For a business that can allow more employees to telecommute, we want you to do that,” de Blasio told a press briefing. “We simply want to reduce the number of people on mass transit just to open up some more space.”
“The challenge is people just packed like sardines,” he continued.
To absorb the potential economic loss of people avoiding the marketplace or employees unable or unwilling to come to work, de Blasio announced that emergency aid would be available for effected small businesses, defined as those with less than one hundred employees. The businesses would be eligible for a no-interest $75,000 loan if they can prove a sales drop of 25% or more from the preceding weeks. For businesses with five employees or less, they would receive direct grants for up to 40% of their payroll costs.
While he offered carrots, de Blasio also threatened the stick to any business the city government accused of price gouging. A precipitous raising of prices, due to the increased demand and shrinking supply, would lead to a fine of up to $500. The effect of price controls is shortages; hand sanitizer has already become difficult to access in the city.
Some schools, both public and private, have been shut down in the city’s surrounding areas. A public school in Westchester County will be closed for up to a week and a half after a teacher tested positive for the coronavirus. In total, thousands of children have been sent home.
As of this morning, none of New York City’s 1,800 public schools have been closed. “We would only consider closing any particular school for very specific reasons and for as brief a period of time as possible,” de Blasio explained. The government is continuing to try to find a balance between safety and disruption.
Hunter DeRensis is a senior reporter for the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter @HunterDeRensis.