/De Blasio stops short of imposing California-like restrictions on New Yorkers

De Blasio stops short of imposing California-like restrictions on New Yorkers



Mayor Bill de Blasio | Getty Images

Mayor Bill de Blasio | Getty

03/22/2020 05:59 PM EDT

Updated 03/22/2020 10:07 PM EDT


NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has lagged other state and local leaders in imposing restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, is calling on New Yorkers to make the right decisions about social distancing.

De Blasio, in a virtual press conference Sunday, said he’s trying to avoid more draconian measures aimed at curbing the virus’ spread — hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier Sunday gave the mayor 24 hours to come up with a plan to reduce the number of people gathering in public spaces.

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“We need to ensure that people [who] want a little exercise in their day can do that in the right way,” de Blasio said. “It is absolutely normal and human to want to get outside, get a little bit of exercise. But I remind you — the pause is all about social distancing.”

Playgrounds and parks will remain open this week, though NYPD officers will break up outdoor gatherings and tell New Yorkers to get their exercise and “get out of here” starting Monday, de Blasio told reporters.

De Blasio spoke after Cuomo decried New Yorkers living their daily lives — like going to farmers markets and picnicking in the park. The de Blasio administration said it will write up a directive that New Yorkers use common sense and send it to the governor’s office.

The mayor asked parents to be responsible for their children when they take them to city playgrounds, which de Blasio said are not being cleaned, and keep kids away from their friends and other families. Children are thought to not develop as severe symptoms related to Covid-19 as adults but could be vectors for the disease — spreading it to older family members who are more susceptible.

“If people are responsible about use of the playgrounds, and we believe it’s a good outlet for kids who only get a short period of exercise each day, we’ll keep them open” de Blasio said. “If we feel that they are not being handled properly, if we feel that people are taking advantage in the wrong way of the situation or are not paying attention to the rules … we’ll have to, at that point, strongly consider shutting them down.”

He added: “Not something I want to do. I really don’t want to do that.”

De Blasio issued his plan after earlier Sunday appearing on “Meet the Press” and saying the situation in the city is so dire that he was asking President Donald Trump to send medically trained soldiers to his city to address escalating shortages amid the coronavirus outbreak. De Blasio said he spoke with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence Sunday evening but declined to share the details of their conversation, he told CNN’s Don Lemon.

The city has 10,764 Covid-19 cases and 99 deaths as of Sunday evening, according to the de Blasio administration. Of those cases, 98 NYPD officers have tested positive and three are hospitalized, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said at the Sunday afternoon press conference.

The virus has become so widespread in New York City that the de Blasio administration said it has not notified people who may have come in contact with those officers. However, the mayor said New Yorkers seem to be heeding the advice to stay home.

An audit by four city agencies Saturday found only 11 businesses out of 13,000 inspections violated orders to shut down, de Blasio said.

“That speaks volumes about what we’re dealing with,” he said.

The de Blasio administration is also releasing 23 inmates on Rikers Island on Sunday. They’re 50 years old or older and at a low risk to re-offend, the mayor said. The city is awaiting the go-ahead from the state to release more prisoners in a way that is “humane and responsive” to the crisis, de Blasio said, amid worries of the illness spreading in the cramped quarters of correctional institutions.

The city is reviewing the release of an additional 200 inmates of about 5,000 people incarcerated at Rikers who officials believe are at high risk of dying from Covid-19, de Blasio said.

“I am confident now that we can figure out what the right number is,” de Blasio said. “There are people we won’t feel comfortable releasing.”

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