March 20, 2020 / 2:55 PM / 8 days ago

New York, California impose toughest restrictions yet in U.S. coronavirus fight

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - California ordered nearly 40 million people to stay home and New York state on Friday told all non-essential workers to do the same while pleading for more medical personnel and supplies to treat coronavirus cases that could overwhelm hospitals.

U.S. President Donald Trump and other officials told reporters the United States was working with Mexico to suspend all non-essential travel at the border. The northern border with Canada already has been closed to non-essential traffic.

“Let me be clear that neither of these agreements with Canada or Mexico applies to lawful trade or commerce,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said. “Essential commercial activities will not be impacted.”

The pandemic has upended life in much of the United States, shuttering schools and businesses, prompting millions to work from home, forcing many out of jobs and sharply curtailing travel.

“This is the most drastic action we can take,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference announcing he would issue an executive order to mandate that 100% of the non-essential workforce stay home and all non-essential businesses close.

“Remain indoors, go outside for solitary exercise,” he said.

The order would be enforced with civil fines and mandatory closures for any businesses not in compliance, he said. Cuomo said it was not a “shelter in place” order and neither was California’s.

New York has 7,102 confirmed cases, 2,950 of which are new. The hospitalization rate is 18%. Of the state’s cases, 4,408 are in New York City, the most populous U.S. city with about 8.5 million people.

Cuomo pleaded for the manufacturing of ventilators and protective masks for an expected surge in cases.

“The ventilators are to this war what missiles were to World War Two,” Cuomo said. He said the state would “pay a premium” to companies that could provide more personal protective equipment, gloves and masks, and he asked companies that might be capable of making these products to “get creative.”

A woman stands with an empty shopping cart, prior to California's Governor Gavin Newsom's effective immediately statewide "stay at home order”, in the face of the fast-spreading pandemic coronavirus (COVID-19), at Trader Joe’s in Napa, California, U.S. March 19, 2020. Picture taken March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

JFK TOWER CLOSED

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it had temporarily closed the air traffic control tower at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York because a technician had tested positive and controllers would work at an alternate location on airport property.

Part of the Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center was closed for cleaning after new cases of COVID-19 were reported.

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order late on Thursday took immediate effect. He left open the duration of the order, suggesting it could last eight weeks, while voicing confidence people will abide by orders to stay home except to visit supermarkets, doctors, pharmacies and laundromats. Essential workers will also be allowed to report to work.

More than 200 people have died in the United States and more than 12,000 cases have been confirmed as of early Friday, an increase of 3,000 cases over the previous day.

More than 1,000 cases have been confirmed in California, where 19 people have died.

Click tmsnrt.rs/3dkIMIL for a GRAPHIC on U.S. cases.

DISTRESS THERAPY

Psychologists and psychiatrists are beginning to report signs of distress among patients worried about the consequences.

Six clinicians interviewed by Reuters say the coronavirus has been the prime focus of virtually all recent therapy sessions.

FILE PHOTO: People walk through a nearly empty Times Square, during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, U.S., March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Chicagoan Mike Wisler was prescribed a sedative to help him sleep when the financial and emotional impact of the pandemic hit the 50-year-old bartender. “My mind won’t shut off,” Wisler said. “As soon as I wake up, it’s like, ‘How am I going to get by this month?’”

The Trump administration announced moves to give relief to workers and students in the health and economic crisis.

The U.S. government was moving its tax filing day to July 15 from April 15, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said. The administration temporarily suspended interest and payments on federal student loans for at least the next 60 days.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Gabriella Borter in New York; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Nick Brown and Jonnelle Marte; writing by Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool; editing by Howard Goller

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