So far, there are 329 confirmed cases of covid-19 in the city and five reported deaths, de Blasio said Sunday, stressing that both numbers are expected to “grow substantially” in the coming days.
De Blasio’s sweeping action comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new advisory urging a nationwide halt to gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks. Cities and states elsewhere in the United States, including Los Angeles, Washington state and Illinois, have also recently rolled out similar restrictions aimed at stopping the virus’s spread, The Washington Post reported.
Before making his announcement, the mayor also faced pressure from other city officials, who were outraged by the sight of large crowds frequenting local bars and restaurants over the weekend, to take more aggressive measures, according to the New York Times.
“This is not a decision I make lightly,” de Blasio wrote on Twitter on Sunday night, addressing the broad shutdown that will go into effect Tuesday at 9 a.m. and that coincides with the city temporarily closing its public-school system. “These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker. But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.”
Though de Blasio’s effort to restrict access to public spaces was praised as “the right decision” amid a global pandemic, many quickly raised alarm about its impacts on the city’s residents — namely the scores of service workers and small-business owners whose livelihoods are likely to be upended by the order.
Long regarded as a cultural mecca known for its diverse food scene, spirited nightlife and endless entertainment, New York has been hit particularly hard by coronavirus-related closures. In recent days, several New York-based late-night shows announced that they would be suspending production for the remainder of the month, and Broadway shuttered all 41 of its theaters until at least April 12.
But the latest restrictions targeting the service industry may have the biggest impact yet.
Of the industries that make up the city’s leisure and hospitality sector, restaurants and bars employ the most people, according to a 2019 report from the New York State Labor Department. The 10 most common occupations within the industry include waiters and waitresses, bartenders, and “counter attendants” at coffee shops — jobs that would not be essential for establishments restricted to takeout and delivery orders.
In his announcement Sunday, de Blasio attempted to quell concerns about his executive order, tweeting, “We will come through this, but until we do, we must make whatever sacrifices necessary to help our fellow New Yorkers.”
The message appeared to do little to assuage worried New Yorkers.
By early Monday, Twitter was flooded with reactions to de Blasio’s statement, and the hashtag “#nycshutdown” trended on the social media platform.
“I am so sorry for all the people who work so hard for all of us, day in and day out,” tweeted actress Bette Midler. “I hope the people who make the rules will find the courage to give them some relief.”
While it remains to be seen exactly how the city’s service industry will be impacted, many called on officials to freeze rent and loan payments, citing fears that the widespread closures may have “just put hundreds of thousands out of work all at once."
Millions of New Yorkers lost their source of income because of the mandate to close bars and restaurants. I support closure for health reasons, but rent and loans for all New Yorkers must be frozen as well. People will cpbecome homeless without this!!!#nycshutdown— Justin.pdf (@ItCouldBeJustin) March 16, 2020
Amid calls for New Yorkers to “stay strong,” others urged people to do whatever they could to support affected businesses through the tough time.
“If you live in [New York City], order takeout or delivery, if you can … local restaurants are really going to need your business,” one person tweeted.
Meanwhile, for some, one thing was certain: Life in the Big Apple won’t be the same for the foreseeable future.