April 16 (UPI) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an update Wednesday there is still a ways to go before life can begin returning to normal following the state’s coronavirus crisis.
The governor told reporters the daily tally of new cases again declined and the number of new deaths remained constant. New York state is the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak with more than 200,000 cases so far and nearly 11,000 deaths.
Nationally, the United States has seen more than 600,000 cases so far and 26,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Fifty-thousand patients have recovered.
Cuomo described the new cases as “a click down” from where they were earlier this week. He has said for days the case “curve” is flattening and expressed optimism the state is emerging from the pandemic. Nonetheless, he cautioned, “We are still in the woods.”
Cuomo said an executive order he’s signed, mandating face coverings in public, takes effect Friday and applies to any situation in which it’s not possible to stay more than six feet away from others. The state may impose a civil penalty for violations, he said.
Earlier, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $170 million program to give free meals to thousands of people in the city who face coronavirus-related hardship.
New York City is the state’s epicenter of the outbreak, accounting for 110,000 cases and almost 10,400 deaths. De Blasio said hospital admissions climbed by 370 Wednesday.
The mayor also said the city will “back up” grocery store owners who enforced city guidelines requiring shoppers to wear face coverings.
“Every store has the right to put up that guidance and make it a requirement for entry into the store,” de Blasio said. “Any customer who refuses should not be allowed in.”
Maryland also issued its own orders requiring face masks in certain public settings. Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order saying face masks must be worn while inside all retail stores and when riding public transportation.
“While this order is an important step in our immediate efforts to protect public health and safety, the wearing of masks is also something that we may all have to become more accustomed to in order to safely reopen our state,” he said.
The order will go into effect at 7 a.m. Saturday.
Officials in Michigan reported the state’s second-largest number of daily cases total to date — 1,366. The state has seen a total of more than 27,000 cases.
Wayne County, which encompasses Detroit, trails only New York City and Nassau County, N.Y., as the area with the most cases nationally.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expressed optimism that stay-at-home orders, in place until April 30, are working and that state officials can start thinking about how to reopen the economy next month.
“Come April 30, we can start thinking about … getting back to living life the way we are accustomed to,” she said.
The number of new cases climbed in Illinois, where officials announced more than 1,200 additions and a total tally approaching 25,000.
Seventy-four new deaths were reported. Cook County, which includes the Chicago area, accounts for nearly 600 of those deaths.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said data projects a longer-term slowdown and a stabilizing number of patients in intensive care.
“Our COVID-19 positive case count was doubling [in] about two days [at the end of March],” he said. “As of this Sunday, April 12, our case doubling rate had reached 8.2 days.”