Governor extends NY PAUSE, keeping schools and nonessential businesses closed through May 15

New York “PAUSE,” an executive order that shut schools and nonessential businesses, has been extended to May 15, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during his daily briefing Thursday.

He said the decision was made in coordination with neighboring states.

“I don’t want to project beyond that period,” Mr. Cuomo said. “One month is a long time.”

The governor reiterated that the calibration for reopening society will be based on the COVID-19 infection rate, data and science.

“We’re talking about human lives here,” he said.

While he has said the pandemic will not truly end until a vaccine is developed — which could take 12 to 18 months — Mr. Cuomo said he couldn’t specify whether social distancing measures would last that long.

“I understand people want certainty and closure, but we don’t have it,” he said.

State officials predict that the infection rate has eased to 0.9, meaning someone with COVID-19 is infecting less than one person. If that rate increases to 1.2 or more, Mr. Cuomo said the infection will again grow exponentially, leaving a narrow margin of error.

“That’s fire through dry grass,” he said.

Mr. Cuomo said in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, the infection rate was between 2.0 and 3.0 and after a three-month lockdown period, is down to 0.3.

Statewide, there are now 213,779 confirmed cases and another 606 fatalities were reported in the last 24 hours. The overall hospitalization rate, including ICU admissions and number of patients on ventilators, also continues to decline.

“That’s really good news, because the intubations lead to the worst news,” Mr. Cuomo said. Health officials estimate that 80% of patients who are intubated never come off of a ventilator.

An executive order that will require anyone out in public to wear a mask or cloth covering over their nose and mouth will begin Friday at 8 p.m., Mr. Cuomo said. He clarified guidelines for wearing masks and said it applies to anyone taking private transportation, such as taxis, Uber or Lyft, and applies to children above the age of 2, in line with CDC guidelines.

Mr. Cuomo has already received backlash over the executive order.

“I understand that people do not like it and some people think it’s an imposition, a government overreach,” he said adding that wearing the masks will potentially save lives.

“I can’t put a mask on 17 million people,” he said. “I trust in New Yorkers.”