Governor Andrew Cuomo announced sweeping new restrictions on New Yorkers at a press conference today. Photo: NYS livestream.

New York State is taking some of the most extreme measures in the nation to slow the spread of coronavirus, ordering all non-essential businesses to keep workers at home, banning social gatherings of any size and implementing even more drastic restrictions for vulnerable populations.

“When we look back at this 10 years from now, I want to be able to say to the people of New York that I did everything we could do,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference today. “This is about saving lives.”

The new measures, which take effect Sunday evening, are necessary in order to prevent the rapidly escalating infection rate from collapsing local hospitals, Cuomo said.

LIVE UPDATES: Coronavirus coverage, closings and cancellations.

The following restrictions will apply to everyone in the state of New York, beginning Sunday evening:

  • All non-essential businesses will be required to keep their entire workforce home. There will be mandatory closures and civil fines for businesses that do not comply.
  • Social gatherings of any size for any reason are banned, including parties, celebrations and other social event.
  • Any gathering of people outside of the home must be limited to workers providing essential services.
  • When in public, people must stay at least six feet apart from each other.
  • Outdoor recreational activities are limited to non-contact sports and activities.
  • Sick people shouldn’t leave home unless it is to receive medical care, and only after a telehealth visit.
  • Limit public transportation unless absolutely necessary.

Even stricter rules will be in effect for vulnerable populations, which Cuomo defined as people over the age of 70, immunocompromised populations or those with underlying illness:

  • Stay indoors except for solitary outdoor exercise.
  • All visitors and aides to homes of vulnerable populations must be screened by taking their temperature.
  • Vulnerable populations should wear a mask when in the company of others.
  • Anyone in the presence of someone in a vulnerable population should wear a mask, to the greatest extent possible.

The governor said he knows these are drastic measures, but the situation demands them.

“This is not life as usual,” he said. “Accept it and realize it and deal with it.”

New York today has more than 7,100 cases of confirmed coronavirus, almost 3,000 more than the day before. More than 1,100 of those cases are in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and 4,408 are in New York City.

READ MORE: Suffolk County hospitals scramble to expand capacity for oncoming coronavirus surge.

Cuomo could not predict how long these measures will be in effect, but explained that public officials could relax and tighten them as the situation progresses.

He compared the restrictions to a “density control valve,” which officials can open and close depending on how the rate of infections responds to each action.

“Today, we’re going to take it to the ultimate step, which is that we’re going to close the valve,” he said. “Because the rate of increase in the number of cases portends a total overwhelming of our hospital system.”

He could not yet provide a full list of what would be considered essential services, but defined them loosely as “services that society needs to function.”

“Grocery stores need food,” he said. “Pharmacies need drugs. Your internet has to continue to work. Your water has to turn on when you turn the faucet. You have to be able to go to the ATM and get money.”

Delivery services of food are an essential service, he added.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Katie Blasl
Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a reporter, editor and web developer for the LOCAL news websites. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie