Bloomberg Law
March 20, 2020, 2:33 PM

De Blasio Insists on NYC Shelter-in-Place Order; Cuomo Resists

Keshia Clukey
Keshia Clukey
Henry Goldman
Henry Goldman
Bloomberg News

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio continued to press Governor Andrew Cuomo to further tighten restrictions on people’s commercial and social lives with a “shelter in place” order that would close all businesses except groceries, pharmacies and health-care facilities.

“Every place that is in the front line of this crisis needs to move to shelter in place to protect ourselves,” de Blasio said on MSNBC on Friday. “Anything nonessential needs to stop, people need to get home, stay close to their families, and social distance to the maximum.”

Even as New York City’s documented cases of the new coronavirus hit 4,000, with 26 deaths as of Thursday, Cuomo has resisted de Blasio’s calls to restrict people’s movements on the grounds that it would create more panic among citizens during a time when authorities need cooperation. The governor, who since midweek has been acting in concert with the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, has said he doesn’t want to issue an order that other states wouldn’t agree to.

The divide between New York’s most powerful heads of government reflects years of tension over the governor’s authority to stymie mayoral policies and restrict state aid to the city. Although the two have praised each other during the crisis in an effort to work together, the question of issuing a “shelter in place” order has divided them. Each has refused to budge.

De Blasio says a “shelter in place” order would follow the model of what California Governor Gavin Newsom has called a “stay at home order,” effectively closing all businesses and asking people to remain in their homes with exceptions carved out for pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations and doctors’ offices, and permitting people to go outside and get exercise while keeping a distance of six feet away from one another.

“I respect the decisions he’s made,” de Blasio said of Cuomo on Friday. “To his great credit while the president has been asleep, Governor Cuomo has been leading.” But de Blasio added, “At this point things are moving so fast and what the state of California did was just a recognition of necessity.”

‘Misinformation, Fear’

Part of the dispute has to do with the terminology. The governor said Wednesday he abhors the term “shelter in place,” because it first became commonly used as a strategy to stay alive during a nuclear attack, and more recently during an active shooter situation in a school.

“Look at your words, ‘shelter in place,’ you know where that came from? That came from nuclear war,” Cuomo told reporters in Albany on Thursday. “What it said is people should go into an interior room of their home with no windows, stay there until they get the all-clear sign. Now, that’s not what people really mean, but that’s what it sounds like.”

“Misinformation, emotion, fear, panic,“ he added, are “truly more dangerous than the virus.”

The governor has also made it plain that he, not the mayor, has the authority to order such restrictions. “Look, I would know, I would have to authorize those actions,” Cuomo said. “It’s not going to happen.”

New York currently permits many businesses to remain open, with 75% of their staff working from home. Cuomo said Friday that barbershops, hair salons, tattoo parlors and other personal care services will close to the public, starting Saturday at 8 p.m. Those services can’t be provided while maintaining social distance, he said. The measure was coordinated with New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, where those services will also close, he said.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Henry Goldman in New York at;
Keshia Clukey in Arlington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Flynn McRoberts at

David S. Joachim

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