The United States of Apocalyspe: Governor Cuomo Orders Shutdown for New York State

03/21/2020

Desperate times call for desperate measures, a phrase that by now Governor Andrew Cuomo knows all too well.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in New York State grows to a devastating 6,834 as of March 20, 2020, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order on Friday morning in which all nonessential businesses will be closed and 100 percent of the workforce will stay home.  

Any nonessential gatherings of any size for any reason are also temporarily banned under the order.

Businesses found in violation of the order will face civil fines and mandatory closures. This excludes essential services such as grocery stores, healthcare facilities, restaurants that offer takeout or delivery services, and mass transit services. The mandate will go into effect on Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 8:00pm.

Known as PAUSE (Policies that Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone) and Matilda's Law, the mandate is Governor Cuomo's latest attempt to flatten the curve of novel coronavirus cases in the state.

"The number one opportunity to make a difference here is to flatten the curve, flatten the number of increases we've talked about, and flatten the number of cases coming into the hospital systems," Governor Cuomo addressed the room. "The best way to do that is by reducing density, density control, density control valve. And that's what we've been doing all along, and we're going to take it to the ultimate step which is we are going to close the valve."

"So," the governor continued, "we're going to put out an Executive Order today, New York State on PAUSE, because what I do will affect you and what you do will affect me...We need everyone to be safe, otherwise no one can be safe."

Governor Cuomo then outlined two basic rules for the mandate: only essential businesses will be functioning, in which people will work from home, and people must remain indoors to the greatest extent to protect physical and mental health. 

The other rules under PAUSE are as follows:

PAUSE Provisions For Non-vulnerable Populations

  • No nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason (parties, celebrations, or other social events are cancelled or postponed at the time.
  • Any concentration of individuals outside their homes must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced
  • When in public individuals must practice social distancing of at least six feet from others
  • Businesses and entities that provide essential services must implement rules that help to facilitate social distancing of at least 6 feet
  • Individuals should limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact and avoid activities where you come in close contact with people
  • Individuals should limit use of public transportation to when absolutely necessary, and should limit potential exposure by spacing out at least 6 feet from other riders

  • Sick individuals should not leave their homes unless to receive medical care, and only after a telehealth visit to determine if leaving home is in the best interest for their health
  • Young people should also practice social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable populations
  • Precaution; isopropyl alcohol wipes.


The rules for the more vulnerable population, known as Matilda's Law, are also as followed:

Matilda's Law

  • Remain indoors
  • Can go outside for solitary exercise

  • Pre screen all visitors and aides by taking their temperatures

  • Do not visit households with multiple people

  • All vulnerable persons should wear a mask when in the company of others

  • To the greatest extent possible, everyone in the presence of vulnerable people should wear a mask

  • Always stay at least six feet away from individuals

  • Do not take public transportation unless urgent and absolutely necessary


The governor then explained which businesses counted as essential and therefore will be excluded from the Executive Order.

"..Groceries stores need food, pharmacies need drugs, your internet has to continue to work, the water has to turn on when you turn the faucet, so these are essential services that will continue to function," Governor Cuomo said. "...And when I talk about the most drastic action we can take, this is the most drastic action we can take. "

The governor also addressed younger individuals who he said were carrying "wrong information."

"I think with young people, part of it is that they're just wrong. They have the wrong information," Governor Cuomo explained. "I can't tell you how many young people are out there saying they can't get it, you're just wrong. This is lunacy what they're doing in some parks and some areas, hanging out on a park bench, playing basketball. When you're young you think you're invincible. Yeah, you're wrong. "

Near the end of the address, Governor Cuomo noted the detrimental effects his Executive Order could have on the people of New York, but said he takes "full responsibility" for feelings of fear, uncertainty, and overall anger as a result.

"These actions will cause disruption, they will cause businesses to close, they'll cause employees to stay home, I understand that," he began. "There is a divergence of opinion, there is a spectrum of opinion. Some people say that we don't need to do this, its going to hurt the economy, I understand that. Some people want to make it clear that they are disassociated from these actions. I understand." 

"Just so we're all clear this is a statewide order," the governor continued. "It's not what your county executive is doing, it's not what your mayor is doing, its not what anyone else but me is doing. And I accept full responsibility. If someone is unhappy, if someone wants to blame someone or complain about someone, blame me. There is no one else who is responsible for this decision."


New Yorkers Affected By The Hold on Life

While PAUSE and Matilda's Law have been put in place with the sole intentions of protecting civilian life, 24-year-old Sean Curro had mixed feelings about Governor Cuomo's decision.

Curro, who works full-time at an architectural hardware shop, is one of the many New Yorkers temporarily without work, stirring up his own feelings of uncertainty about not only the executive order, but his future.

"I don't know if I'm going to get paid at all or not," Curro said. "So I'm screwed."

The Westchester native said that he believes the order could possibly help stop the spread of the virus, but expressed his concerns about others who may be financially burdened due to the new mandate.

"A lot of people will be affected by this," the 24-year-old said. "[Cuomo] even said himself some businesses will close and people will be in financial trouble, but that he's 'going to take full responsibility.' Whatever that means."

"It will slow the spread of the virus," Curro continued, "but at the cost of hundreds of thousands of people."

Although Curro is unsure if he agrees with the governor's decision, he did agree with Cuomo's statement on younger individuals not taking COVID-19 seriously.

"Look at all the kids everywhere still partying. It's insane," Curro said. "If people would just listen to what the government was saying in the first place and not go out, we wouldn't have had to resort to this."

Overall, Curro said he is afraid for the future, especially because it is not yet known just how long the governor's mandate will last.

"Everything is just crazy," he said. "This is the first time we're living through something like this."

Curro is not the only individual who has been financially affected by the governor's order. Brianna Cassara told Finnie Says that both of her jobs and her family's jobs have been impacted when businesses first began shutting down before the new mandate.

Cassara, a nursing student at Mercy College, works as a mentor for students with disabilities and at a pottery painting shop. Since the shutdown of businesses due to the increasing spread of the virus, Cassara said both of her jobs were already cutting down on business.

"Both of my jobs had cut back business, which in turn cut back my hours and my coworkers' hours, ultimately giving us less income," the nursing student said.  "This inevitably affected us all with our bills and daily expenses.

Cassara also revealed that her aunt is both immunosuppressed and immunocompromised, forcing the woman to stay home as a result. Since the governor's mandate, Cassara said that both of her parents' jobs have closed. However, she still works from home for her position as a mentor while her second job at the pottery shop is temporarily closed.

"It's just insane. I feel like the mandate was a good choice because it helps us to avoid contact and the spread as much as possible," Cassara began, "but at the same time, everyone is out of a job. I'm working from home which is great but I like to get out of the house. I'm going to lose my mind."

Staring Fear In the Face

As more Americans are laid off from their jobs, there are those individuals whose essential services require them to face the virus head on. 

Gabrielle Banks is a Client Care Representative at the healthcare clinic CityMD. Being in healthcare, Banks has experienced firsthand the widespread feelings of fear and panic the public is stricken with.

"Within these past few weeks, I have noticed the panic get bigger and bigger," Banks said. "Being in healthcare, I've seen more and more people just getting tested in general. It's a big problem because it is spreading so rapidly and it's not being contained."

Since healthcare facilities are one of the primary essential businesses allowed to stay operational during Governor Cuomo's mandate, Banks has been working from early in the morning well into the night.

Gabrielle Banks is a part of the essential services workforce. Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Banks.
Gabrielle Banks is a part of the essential services workforce. Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Banks.

"I am in healthcare so we never close," Banks laughed. "We are at the frontlines of all of this. My schedule has not changed and I am working at the forefront with a lot of other healthcare workers."

"However," Banks went on, "I do know people who are out of work right now due to the shutdown. I have an aunt who is an assistant principal and  I also have a friend who is a gym trainer. Unfortunately, he solely benefits off of that, so he is trying to find other means of working to make ends meet, so it's sad."

Although Banks empathized with those who are temporarily out of work due to the order, she also agreed with Cuomo's decision. The healthcare professional cited her severe anxiety as one of her major reasons for supporting the governor's mandate, specifically when it came to her more vulnerable grandparents.

"As a person who suffers from anxiety, it just makes my anxiety increase knowing that I don't have control over certain situations," Banks' voice broke. "I won't know if there are people around my grandparents not practicing social distancing. And I'm used to seeing my grandparents all the time and not seeing them is hard."

"Even with my aunt, before I hug her I'll take a shower because God forbid I expose my family," she continued. "Because I don't know. I have to basically assume that everyone at my job is positive. I have to be weary so I don't take that risk and pass it along. I have not seen my grandparents in two weeks, so the lockdown makes it even harder. Both my grandparents have health issues, which is why it increases my anxiety because I can't go out there to protect them."

Banks went on to say that New Yorkers' and younger individuals' lack of care and overall negligence towards COVID-19 played a main role in Cuomo's implementation of the shutdown. 

"New Yorkers are just taking this as a joke. You don't know who is carrying what and you have to be cautious, especially because the Trump Administration made it seem like it was no big deal. You see spring breakers partying up still. We don't know how its going to affect us. 

In the end, the Detroit native stated that the situations surrounding the virus "are going to get worse before they get better" but cited three essential keys that she believes will aid in slowing the spread.

"At the end of the day, it's about listening, understanding, and accepting. Those are the key things right now.  Because it's not going away anytime soon and it's not going to go away until people take it serious. "

A Deadly Dose of Xenophobia

While essential workers like Banks are diving head-first into the pandemic, some nonessential business employees have been fortunate to work from home.

Mitchell Lew is a National Media Associate at the marketing firm ICON International. While Lew will still be getting a check working remotely and agreed with Governor Cuomo's order, he expressed his concerns for how the public will act if the mandate were to be extended for a long period of time.

"I understand why the governor needs to take these measures, and it makes sense," Lew said. "But it can't go on for more than a couple weeks or else people will go mad."

However, Lew disclosed a darker underlying component of his concerns over the PAUSE order. Since news that the COVID-19 originated in the Hubei Province of Wuhan, China, many Chinese and Asian Americans have faced different levels of racism and xenophobia from angry Americans.

Lew has been one target.

"A few weeks ago when I was with my family in a hotel lobby in Canada, some of the other tourists were looking at us strange," he said. "None of us were even coughing or sneezing, [but] they would just move away from us."

"It was mad noticeable," Lew continued," and this one lady just kept giving me dirty looks."

The incident left the 22-year-old a bit perturbed, and he noticed himself becoming slightly paranoid whenever he was out in public, including constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure no one was shooting him mean looks. 

Now with Governor Cuomo's latest defense mechanism to combat the spread of COVID-19, Lew is worried the mandate will only spark more racism against Chinese Americans due to the frustrations many may have with the order. 

Lew shared with Finnie Says some racially charged posts he came across on social media, further igniting his worries.

One Instagram user took a video of him yelling at a Chinese man as he was locking up a Chinese restaurant. In the video, the user can be heard saying, "It's ya'll fault. " He then goes on to say that the government specifically made Chinese restaurants close first before any other restaurant. 

In another post, a user posted a photo of a Chinese nail salon that was allegedly attacked by Italian extremists, according to the caption.

Perhaps the most disturbing post is one that displays a man throwing a bucket of water on an Asian man who then retaliated and fought back.

Despite recognizing Cuomo's efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, Lew is afraid the mandate will only make people more hostile towards the Asian community.

"[People] will try to visit Asian-owned businesses and harass, even assault the first Asian they see," Lew said. "While China is to blame for the origin of the disease, blame those who don't care about this virus spreading and who are going out living their lives not caring about those who can be critically harmed by it."

A Glimmer of Hope

As the world appears to stop turning and cries of mass hysteria run rampant amongst Americans everywhere, the World Health Organization (WHO) is working around the clock to respond to the pandemic with the help of the United Nations Foundation.

The United Nations Foundation is a partner of the United Nations that serves to aid in the world's most critical global crises, including the present COVID-19. As of March 13, 2020, the UN Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation have joined forces to create the Solidarity Response Fund, which allows individuals, institutions, and corporations to directly donate to the WHO's efforts to respond effectively to the pandemic. 

Before Governor Cuomo's mandate, Rachel Bridges, the Global Health Communications Manager for the UN Foundation, told Finnie Says that it is "inspiring" to see people in their communities coming together during these dark times, all while empathizing with those affected by the temporary closures at the time.

"It's hard to balance the public health needs that can protect people along with the public's needs to continue their daily lives," Bridges said. "But people have been stepping up in their communities, people have been sharing info and are generously giving to their communities."

"It's really inspiring to see to see the solidarity," she continued. " Because, again, it is hard to balance needs and continue life as usual, but our goal is to keep people safe."

Overall, Bridges is confident that there will be an end to the pandemic once and for all.

"Our best scientists are actively working to see what will stop [COVID-19]," Bridges said. "For right now, it's just taking the basic health measures to make sure we can flatten that curve. We have the ability to stop this virus. We can and we will."

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and in these desperate times, take extensive measures to listen, understand, and accept. 

"There are places in New York City that look like life as usual," Governor Cuomo said. "This is not life as usual."