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No community quarantines over coronavirus are planned, Cuomo says

ALBANY – The state has no plans to quarantine any locality in New York State, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday.

The Democrat said he is not considering any such geographic isolation of communities and made the announcement to quell rumors that might be out in New York State. Cuomo said there are many steps to take before such a dramatic action as a widespread quarantine.

He worried that such an action would cause panic and lead people to flee a local community under quarantine – making the virus spread even worse. The governor not long ago, however, was also saying he was not envisioning shutting down the state's school system, which he ordered Monday.

"I wouldn't allow it,'' Cuomo said of any locality that might try to enact a quarantine order on its own. He said the next step would likely involve more closing of different kinds of businesses.

Hours later, residents in New York City, the nation's largest city and a key driver of taxes and other revenues for the State of New York and the national economy, was told by Mayor Bill de Blasio that a shelter-in-place order for residents could be issued within 48 hours.

The state's fiscal crisis is worsening by the day.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli delivered the sobering news to the governor and legislative leaders on Tuesday: the $87.9 billion in tax receipts Cuomo estimated would come the state's way in the fiscal year starting April 1 will be at least $4 billion lower given the hit on the economy that is affecting major sources of taxes for the government, including income and sales taxes. Under one scenario, in which a deep recession hits the national and state economies, DiNapoli said the revenue number could be more than $7 billion lower.

"Definitive estimates of the COVID-19 impact on the economy and State revenues are not possible, in part because the ultimate health and social impacts of the virus are currently unknowable. Most available economic forecasts have not yet caught up with recent events, although projections have broadly weakened,'' DiNapoli wrote the other state leaders who are facing a March 31 deadline to get a budget done on time.

DiNapoli said, however, that ideas under consideration in Washington, such as additional Medicaid funds for the states and a federal economic stimulus package, could end up benefiting the state and reducing the fiscal hit from lower tax revenues to Albany. On the other hand, he said ideas like delaying the federal income tax filing deadline in April could create unanticipated tax flow problems for the state, which would also have to extend its state tax filing date.

Cuomo said lawmakers will have to give him additional flexibility after a budget is passed so he can unilaterally adjust spending through the fiscal year.

Both houses of the Legislature are set to return midday on Wednesday. Officials weren't precisely sure on Tuesday exactly what bills would be taken up, how long lawmakers will be in Albany and whether they will try to rush through a new state budget — having no idea of the true revenue and spending picture — and then return to their districts for an unknown amount of time.

New Yorkers on Tuesday across the state were trying to adapt to shut-downs of a host of entertainment and social places, as well as limits on public gatherings.

Cuomo, in a Capitol briefing, said the highest number of complaints he is hearing about related to the shutdown order that kicked in last night that shuttered bars.

The governor said "more dramatic" mandatory closings are being considered, but that would not come Tuesday. He said he is working with other governors on a plan that could lead to more sweeping shutdowns of private businesses. He noted Italy closed all but essential services. "We're not there yet,'' Cuomo said.

He said the curve of the virus' spread is not flattening and that the next step could be the mandatory closing of more types of businesses. He did not elaborate.

The state is especially worried about hospital capacity. Officials think as many as 110,000 hospital beds could be needed in New York State in the next 45 days if the virus continues to spread. The state now has a capacity of 53,000 beds. Also, the state has 3,000 ICU beds, and could need as many as 37,000 ICU beds.

There have been 1,374 confirmed cases in New York, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, just two weeks after the first positive case was confirmed. The state has tested 10,000 people. Twelve people have died, and 19% of people who tested positive have been or are hospitalized.

A day after blasting the federal response to the virus' spread, Cuomo did a 180-degree turn. "The president is doing the right thing in offering to step up to help New York,'' Cuomo said. He added that Trump's team "is on it" regarding its response to the virus.

Effective Monday night, bars, restaurants, casinos, gyms and other public places were closed down. Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned.

Cuomo and legislative leaders also announced agreement on a measure to provide mandatory sick leave for people who test positive or are ordered to quarantine. Large employers – those with 100 or more workers -- and all public employers must provide at least 14 days' sick leave; employers with 10 or fewer workers and net corporate income under $1 million will have to provide certain job protection and access to the state's paid family leave program.

The sick leave bill, introduced Tuesday afternoon, also applies broadly beyond coronavirus victims to enact into permanent law new sick leave mandates on employers, who will have to provide a minimum amount of sick leave for workers who are not only ill, but also facing a range of circumstances: from being stalked or being a victim of domestic violence to needing time off from work to meet with an attorney on on matters relating to everything from matrimonial issues or housing problems or immigration issues; time off to enroll a child in a new school will also qualify as sick time as will any matters "to maintain, improve or restore the physical, psychological, or economic health or safety of the employee or the employee's family member.

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