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A suburb of New York City will close all public gathering places within a one-mile radius for two weeks, making it the first location in the U.S. that has taken such strict measures.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that the state will create a one-mile “containment zone” in New Rochelle, closing down all public gathering places and sending in National Guard troops to help with cleaning and food distribution.
The targeted area is in a suburb just outside of New York City that has been an epicenter of Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus. “New Rochelle, at this point, is probably the largest cluster of these cases in the United States,” Cuomo said. “It is a significant issue for us.”
Starting Thursday, all large facilities, including schools, synagogues, and community event centers, within the one-mile area will be required to close for two weeks. Streets will remain open and people will be free to move about.
“You are not containing people, it is facilities,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said he is working with local officials and that he understood local business owners would struggle with the closures, although officials said businesses would be allowed to stay open.
The National Guard would be deployed to help clean schools and distribute food to residents who are quarantined because they show symptoms of the illness.
The state has confirmed 173 cases of the coronavirus, with more than 100 coming from Westchester County, where New Rochelle is located. Fourteen people with the virus had been hospitalized as of Tuesday morning.
The question of how far to go with restricting large events is getting more attention as the number of coronavirus patients mounts. So far, state and federal leaders have been encouraging people to act responsibly: stay home from work or school if they feel ill, work from home when possible and quarantine themselves if they have come in contact with a diagnosed patient.
In Washington state, where the disease first spread in the United States and where 22 people have died, this issue has been debated by political leaders. Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday said state leaders were considering “mandatory measures,” such as stopping events and large gatherings. Asked on Tuesday whether it was time to move forward with that kind of action, he said he wasn’t quite ready.
“We are doing everything in real time, as rapidly as possible, to make good decisions. And you don’t want to make decisions where you haven’t thought about the consequences. Shutting down any social activity has profound consequences in people’s lives,” Inslee said at a news conference. “And you have to understand those and see if there are ways to reduce them and ameliorate that.”
Inslee said he was talking with local community leaders about these issues to make sure that any more drastic moves are followed on all levels of government. He said it was likely that he would be announcing new steps in the coming days.
Laura Maggi is the managing editor for Route Fifty. Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.
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