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New York City State Of Emergency: De Blasio Says Schools And Mass Transit Will Stay Open

Sergei Klebnikov

Topline: Following his declaration of a state of emergency in New York City on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated that public schools and mass transit would remain open, even as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s indefinite statewide ban on public gatherings of 500 people or more goes into effect on Friday.

  • In a press conference on Thursday announcing the state of emergency order, de Blasio predicted that the coronavirus “could easily be a six-month crisis,” with the number of cases in the city projected to rise to 1,000 by next week.
  • With concerns over the outbreak escalating, droves of New Yorkers are abandoning crowded public transport, while M.T.A. officials on Friday denied rumors that the city was planning to shut down its subways and buses.
  • “No. Period. Full Stop. Not happening,” M.T.A. chairman Patrick Foye said in an interview with NY1. “It’s important to emphasize that the system is safe,” he said, while also adding that the agency would ramp up cleaning efforts.
  • De Blasio also said in his press conference that “We are going to fight tooth and nail” and “do our damnedest to keep the schools open” for as long as possible, since “Kids need meals, and parents need a place for them to go.”
  • But as schools around the country begin to shut down to curb the spread of coronavirus, de Blasio has faced mounting pressure from elected city officials, public health experts, teachers and parents urging him to do the same. 
  • The New York City City Teachers Union on Friday called for de Blasio to close public schools, while Council speaker Corey Johnson also said on that “it is time to close our public schools,” and that while “it is not time to panic… it is time to act.”

Tangent: Despite growing concerns, there was some good news on Friday. Following multiple requests for federal aid from both Cuomo and de Blasio, U.S. health regulators finally gave approval for faster, automated coronavirus testing which will speed up the ability to test patients by tenfold, according to Bloomberg. De Blasio said, “We’ve been pushing hard for this and we’re working to get [the new test] up and running on the ground here in NYC as fast as possible.”

Big numbers: Most of the city’s 1,800 public schools are still up and running. But closing down New York City’s school system would be challenging, given that it encompasses 1.1 million children, with some 750,000 students living at or below the poverty line, according to The New York Times

Crucial statistics: New York City now has at least 154 confirmed coronavirus cases—with almost 100 reported in the last couple of days. Almost 2,000 people are apparently under voluntary quarantine, with at least 29 more people under mandatory quarantine.

What to watch for: De Blasio’s declared state of emergency gives New York City the power to take steps like ordering people and cars off the streets, establishing a curfew, rationing supplies and postponing elective procedures in hospitals. As of Friday, none of those steps have been imposed and don’t yet look imminent. 

Key background: New York State has indefinitely banned events and public gatherings of more than 500 people, as per Cuomo’s own announcement yesterday. That goes into effect at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, effectively shutting most major attractions and venues. The decision includes all 41 theaters on Broadway, a key multibillion-dollar economic engine for New York, which will go dark for at least a month beginning on Thursday. The restrictions came hours after other major institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall, announced that they too would be closing. “You are going to see the same trajectory that you saw in China, South Korea and Italy, and it is going to happen here as the virus spreads because of the way it is actually contagious,” Cuomo said in a press conference yesterday.

Further reading: New York City Declares State Of Emergency, Amid Statewide Ban On All Large Gatherings

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I am a New York—based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news, with a focus on financial topics. Previously, I wrote about investing for Money Magazine and was an

I am a New York—based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news, with a focus on financial topics. Previously, I wrote about investing for Money Magazine and was an intern at Forbes in 2015 and 2016. I graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2018, majoring in International Relations and Modern History. Follow me on Twitter @skleb1234 or email me at sklebnikov@forbes.com