New York bans most large gatherings, visits to nursing homes

Updated: Mar. 12, 2020 at 6:49 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that New York will ban most gatherings of more than 500 people beginning at 5 p.m. Friday due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

He said the exceptions include schools, hospitals, nursing homes and mass transit.

The governor said the ban will be evaluated daily.

In addition he said gatherings of fewer than 500 people will have to reduce capacity by 50 percent.

“To reduce the number of people in a contagious environment, no gathering with 500 people or more. From zero to 500 we’re reducing the occupancy by 50 percent. So 50 percent of your seated capacity is your new capacity for a facility," said the governor.

Cuomo also announced most visits to nursing homes will be banned. However, he said facilities can make exceptions for people who wish to visit a very sick or dying loved one; those visitors will be required to wear protective gear.

The governor said all nursing home employees are required to wear masks and be monitored for symptoms.

He said New York now has 328 cases of the coronavirus, 112 more than the day before. According to the governor, 47 people are hospitalized with the illness.

New York is second only to Washington state in the number of cases. Washington has 338 cases and has seen 29 deaths. There have been no deaths in New York.

As the number of cases rises, the state is making plans with hospitals in the event they need to treat a surge in patients. Cuomo said one way to increase capacity in hospitals might be to cancel elective surgeries, which take up about 25 to 35 percent of hospital beds.

The governor also is also asking former doctors and nurses to contact their former employers to help on an "on-call" basis.

The state is also considering using National Guard medics and medical school staff if necessary.

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