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New York City's Grand Central terminal is quiet on a business day due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020.

New York City's Grand Central terminal is quiet on a business day due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020. (Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Treating Coronavirus Like Active Shooter, NYC Mayor Warns of 'Shelter in Place Order' for Entire City

The mayor's comments come as Gov. Cuomo says peak of infectious outbreak could still be 45 days away.

Eoin Higgins

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday afternoon that city residents should be prepared for a "shelter in place" order with the next 48 hours to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, a dramatic escalation of measures to contain the disease that came hours after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state could still be at least 45 days away from peak infection. 

"This is a reality that is being talked about because the crisis continues to grow," said de Blasio of the possible order at a press conference, adding, "It is quite clear this is a fast-growing crisis."

A shelter in place order—most typically associated with the nation's crisis of mass shootings—would curtail New York City's public life even further than it is now with restaurants and bars across the city closed or operating at severely limited capacity and schools and universities shut down. 

According to the New York Times, de Blasio is considering other measures to prepare for the pandemic's hit:

By canceling elective surgeries and dismissing patients from hospitals more quickly, the city could free up about 7,000 patient beds, the mayor said. Another 1,200 to 1,300 beds could be added by taking over unused space in hospitals and converting a newly built nursing home in Brooklyn that was not yet occupied.

Earlier Tuesday, in his daily press briefing on the outbreak, Cuomo said he would not consider shutting down cities and that they could not "quarantine" themselves. 

"We hear New York City is going to quarantine itself. That is not true," said Cuomo. "That cannot happen."

"It cannot happen legally," the governor continued. "No city in the state can quarantine itself without state approval. And I have no interest whatsoever and no plan whatsoever to quarantine any city."

Cuomo also told reporters that New York state is "45 days" from the peak of infection and woefully unprepared for the coming onslaught of illnesses and deaths.

The governor's statement drew horror and calls for urgent action from observers. 

"If we have 45 days before we hit our peak," said podcaster Rachel Millman, "we need to overhaul hospitals and hotels starting today."

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