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Cuomo bans gatherings, nonessential workers to stay home

Gov. Andrew Cuomo presents his fiscal year 2021 Executive Budget in Albany Tuesday. (Provided photo — Darren McGee, governor's office)

ALBANY (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday he is ordering all workers in nonessential businesses to stay home and banning gatherings statewide.

The Democratic governor took the dramatic actions as confirmed cases in New York climbed to more than 7,000. Cuomo reported that the state’s number of fatalities had increased to 35. Johns Hopkins University, which has been tallying deaths globally, put the state’s fatality count at 38.

“We’re going to close the valve, because the rate of increase in the number of cases portends a total overwhelming of our hospital system,” Cuomo said at a news conference.

Nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are canceled or postponed. Cuomo also mandated that all people should stay at least 6 feet away from other people when they are out in public.

And only essential businesses can have workers commuting to the job or on the job, Cuomo said.

The rules will take effect Sunday evening.

The executive order he will sign Friday tightens previous work-from-home exemptions that exempted businesses providing certain services, including media, warehouses, grocery and food production facilities, pharmacies, health care providers, utilities and banks.

Cuomo said people can still go out for solitary exercise to protect their physical and mental health.

“You can’t say to someone, ‘You must be locked in your apartment 24 hours a day for the foreseeable future.’ Look what you’re saying to people. This could be going on for months,” he said.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below:

No haircuts or other personal care services

Barbershops, hair salons, tattoo and piercing parlors and nail salons in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania must close Saturday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the governors of the four states said.

The multi-state order, which also covers hair removal services and related personal care services, is the latest in a series of business restrictions announced by the governors to reduce chances for the virus to spread from person to person.

The businesses must close by 8 p.m. Saturday.

“These temporary closures are not going to be easy, but they are necessary to protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers and all Americans,” Cuomo said in a statement.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.

High-risk inmates

A public defenders group demanded the immediate release of 116 New York city jail inmates they say are vulnerable to the coronavirus.

A lawsuit filed Friday by The Legal Aid Society says the plaintiffs are older and sick inmates who are being held while they wait for trial or because they violated parole. Continuing to jail them “constitutes a deliberate indifference to the risk of serious medical harm,” it says.

A jail oversight board had already called for the immediate release of all high-risk inmates after an investigator assigned to the jails died from COVID-19, the disease that causes the virus.

The city’s jail system has about 8,000 inmates, most at notorious Rikers Island. At least one inmate there has tested positive for the virus.

A message was left Friday with the city Department of Correction.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.