(CNN) – All workers in nonessential businesses across New York state are required to stay home in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a press conference Friday morning.
The executive order takes effect Sunday evening, Cuomo said, and comes a day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state’s nearly 40 million residents to stay home. The two states have a combined population of nearly 59 million people, meaning the two orders affect nearly 1 in 5 Americans.
Cuomo acknowledged that his actions “will cause disruption. They will cause businesses to close. They’ll cause employees to stay at home. I understand that. They will cause much unhappiness. I understand that also.”
But, he said, “I accept full responsibility. If someone is unhappy, if somebody wants to blame someone, or complain about someone, blame me. There is no one else who is responsible for this decision.
“The Democratic governor insisted he wasn’t issuing a “shelter in place” order, which he said referred to active shooter situations, but rather the state was “closing the valve” of everyday life to limit the outbreak. He urged New Yorkers to “remain indoors to the greatest extent.”
Civil fines and mandatory closures for businesses that don’t comply with the new mandate will be enforced beginning on Sunday, Cuomo announced.
“These provisions will be enforced,” he said. “These are not helpful hints. This is not if you really want to be a great citizen. These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance. Again, your actions can affect my health. That’s where we are.”
Cuomo, however, said there will be no civil fines on individuals at this time for people who violate the policy. He also announced that he’s going to issue a moratorium on evictions, both residential and commercial, for 90 days.
For New Yorkers who are low risk, nonessential gatherings will be restricted. Individuals are being asked to limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact activities. For essential workers who have to go out in public, the governor encouraged practicing social distancing. Grocery stores, food delivery service and public transportation will remain operational, Cuomo said.
People over 70 or with underlying conditions are ordered to remain indoors, only to go outside for solitary exercise, screening all visitors’ temperatures, and avoid visiting households with multiple people.
“There are people and places in New York City where it looks like life as usual. No, this is not life as usual. And accept it and realize it and deal with it,” Cuomo said.