Governors Murphy, Cuomo and Lamont
Dear Commons Community
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have joined other states around the country by agreeing to close bars, restaurants and other businesses and impose curfews that begin at 8 p.m. daily. This is a sweeping and unprecedented regional effort to enforce social distancing as new coronavirus cases are jumping across the nation.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said yesterday morning that all gyms, movie theaters and casinos will also close indefinitely starting at 8 p.m. yesterday. Bars and restaurants will only be available for takeout services. Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned, a directive that follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued Sunday evening. As reported by Politico.
“The governors, who spoke to reporters on a joint conference call and urged the federal government to issue more uniform guidance, said they will shut down all non-essential services from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day. Essential services include grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies.
“We have agreed to a common set of rules that will pertain in all of our states,” Cuomo said. “So don’t even think about going to a neighboring state because there’s going to be a different set of conditions. I believe we are the only region in the country that has done this.”
The regional order follows Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement Sunday evening that bars and restaurants in the city would be closed indefinitely, as well as similar orders that were issued in New Jersey over the weekend.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday also mandated the closure of all bars and nightclubs and ordered people ages 65 and older to stay home, while Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued orders closing bars and restaurants to dine-in customers. Baker also prohibited gatherings of more than 25 people.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on Monday that also closes theaters, bars and casinos and limits restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders.
In New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the restrictions also apply to casinos, and come just days after Cuomo made the decision to carve them out from the state’s prohibition on gatherings of more than 500 people. The jurisdiction does not apply to the tribal casinos in New York and Connecticut, but Cuomo said he believes tribal leaders understand the gravity of the situation and will follow suit in closing.
“This is a do-the-right-thing situation,” Cuomo said.
Shortly after the announcement, at least one of New York’s Indian tribes — Oneida Indian Nation — said it would be temporarily closing its three casino properties.
In New Jersey, where Murphy had previously recommended that all gatherings of 250 or more people be canceled, the state had not made any moves to shutter its Atlantic City casinos until Monday. Murphy said online gaming, which accounts for a growing share of casino revenue, will continue.
The governors say they are in conversations with other governors in the region with whom they’ve tried to collaborate on issues like gun safety or marijuana legalization. Murphy said he had spoken to Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, who on Sunday issued an order limiting bars and restaurants to take-out orders in five different counties.
Lamont has already closed all Connecticut schools, while Cuomo has ordered the closure of downstate schools and Murphy is preparing to announce school closures Monday afternoon.
“Everyone needs to stay in and be safe,” Murphy said. “The last thing anyone should be thinking about is going out and spreading the disease.”
Cuomo, who has been vocal in demanding more of President Donald Trump and federal health officials, said the states were taking the regional action in the absence of guidance from Washington. He said a “hodgepodge” approach to the coronavirus response would be ineffective in reducing the spread.
“They’ve been behind from Day One on this crisis,” Cuomo said. “States, frankly, don’t have the capacity or the power to make up for the federal government. We’re doing the best we can, but we really need the federal government to do what it’s supposed to be doing.”
When it comes to closing businesses and institutions, state and local governments typically have far more authority than Washington.
“We are so decentralized because of federalism in the U.S. that we can just expect a wide variety of responses across the U.S.,” said Polly Price, an Emory University law professor who’s an expert in public health law.
But, she said, guidance from federal officials could be key in giving local leaders an opening to issue the sort of orders that began trickling in over the weekend.
“The strong direction of the CDC is really helpful here because these are very unpopular decisions — and brave decisions, as far as I’m concerned — to close down public gatherings,” Price said. “To the extent that they need political cover for doing so, if the CDC is giving them this advice, that could give them legal cover.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!