New York Will Restrict Most Gatherings of More Than 500 People: Live Updates

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Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

Broadway will go dark for at least a month beginning Thursday after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced restrictions on public gatherings, an extraordinary step to fight the growing outbreak of the coronavirus.

Mr. Cuomo’s decision to limit gatherings of more than 500 people was an especially heavy blow to the theater industry, a crown jewel of New York City’s tourist trade. Last season, the industry drew 14.8 million patrons and grossed $1.8 billion.

All 41 Broadway theaters have at least 500 seats, and most can accommodate audiences of more than 1,000.

The restrictions were announced just hours after other cultural institutions including the Metropolitan Museum, the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall announced that they would be suspending visits and performances.

Broadway theaters suspended performances through April 12, according to a statement from the Broadway League, a trade organization that represents producers and theater owners.

Under the guidance announced by Mr. Cuomo, most gatherings of more than 500 people will be banned. Smaller gatherings will still be allowed, but restaurants, bars and other venues with capacities of fewer than 500 people must cut their occupancy by half.

Schools, hospitals, nursing homes and public transit will be exempt from the guidelines, which are to take effect Friday at 5 p.m., Mr. Cuomo said. Broadway theaters were subject to the new rules at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Mr. Cuomo’s announcement came as health officials updated their figures to show 328 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, with 112 added since Monday. One hundred and forty-eight of the cases were in Westchester County and 95 were in New York City.

In Nassau County on Long Island, 40 people had the virus, with 10 of them hospitalized and one person in critical condition, officials said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, appearing at an afternoon news conference, declared a state of emergency and said that the impact of the coronavirus on day-to-day life in the city “could easily” extend “for a half-year or more.”

Mr. de Blasio said that the city, which had 95 coronavirus cases on Thursday, could have 1,000 next week.

“Going to this level is not done lightly, but it has reached the point where it is necessary,” he said after signing the order. He cited the potential for major job losses, large-scale evictions of renters, mass business closings and even food shortages.

Among the steps the mayor said the city could take under a state of emergency were closing public transit, ordering people off the streets and rationing supplies. Curfews could be imposed and streets could be closed to vehicles, he said.

The mayor, speaking in a somber tone, said that developments since Wednesday related to the virus’s spread were “striking and troubling,” and he said that the continuing fallout would open a “hole in our lives.”

Hospital officials said that 22 patients were hospitalized in the city. The mayor said that hospitals would take drastic steps if necessary to increase capacity.

“They’ll take a parking lot and put up a tent and turn it into an I.C.U.,” he said.

Mr. de Blasio also made it clear that he hoped to keep three elements of the city’s public functioning as normally as possible for as long as possible.

“There are three things we want to preserve at all cost: our schools, our mass transit system, and most importantly our health care system,” he said, while also calling for federal assistance.

“We need the federal government to move immediately with a huge stimulus program,” he said.

Mr. de Blasio expressed frustration over how federal officials had limited the city’s ability to administer rapid, widespread testing for the virus.

“We’re fighting a war here without enough ammunition,” he said.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey recommended on Thursday that all public gatherings of more than 250 people, including concerts, sporting events and parades, be canceled across the state.

“Our front line efforts right now must be to aggressively mitigate the potential for exposure and further spread,” Mr. Murphy said in a statement. “We are taking this step because social distancing works.”

Judith Persichilli, the state’s health commissioner, said that hospitals were already at capacity, which was a factor in the recommendation on public gatherings. The goal, she said, was to avoid a rapid spike in cases that would overwhelm the public health system.

In Jersey City, Mayor Steven Fulop announced a 10 p.m. curfew for nightclubs and bars.

Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut also ordered a ban on gatherings of 250 people for social and recreational activities.

With anxiety rising in New York, rumors began to circulate in hushed whispers, group chats and on social media that officials planned to shut down public transit and quarantine the city.

On Thursday, officials insisted that the information was false.

“It’s important that we all do the best we can to limit the flow of inaccurate info,” said Freddi Goldstein, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary, on Twitter.

Mr. de Blasio has repeatedly said he does not want to totally shut down the city. That is especially true of the subway, which he views as the foundation of the local economy and a vital resource for working people.

On Thursday, the mayor professed frustration over rumors that such a shutdown was looming.

“If it’s not coming from my mouth,” he said, “don’t believe it.”

Even with the state’s limiting large gatherings in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made a point of saying public transit was an exception.

All public schools in Bergen County, N.J., the county with the most coronavirus cases in the state, will close at 3 p.m. Friday and shift to online instruction “until further notice,” the county executive, James J. Tedesco, said in a Facebook post late Thursday.

With nearly one million residents in 75 municipalities, Bergen is New Jersey’s most populous county. Its schools educate 170,000 students and employ more than 16,000 teachers, administrators and support staff members.

New Jersey announced six new positive coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the statewide total to 29. Thirteen of the cases were in Bergen County, officials said, including a 16-year-old girl from Englewood.

In New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials have called widespread school closings a last resort, two city-run public schools were closed on Thursday after a parent informed the city that their child had tested positive.

City officials said late Thursday that the student did not in fact have the virus, and that the schools would reopen on Friday after a deep cleaning.

Mr. de Blasio said separately on Thursday that New York City public school assemblies, plays, after-school sports and other activities would be canceled as a result of the spread of virus.

The Archdiocese of New York will close all of its elementary schools next week, “with the possibility of a lengthier closure,” officials said in a statement on Thursday.

The move affects over 19,000 students at 152 Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese, which stretches from Staten Island north to Dutchess County.

The Diocese of Brooklyn, which covers Brooklyn and Queens, said that one of its schools would be closed on Thursday and Friday.

The school, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic Academy in Forest Hills, Queens, was being disinfected after a suspected coronavirus case, the diocese said. It said that person had not been at school for the last two weeks.

The Catholic Youth Organizations and the Catholic High School Athletic Associations will also cancel all activities in the archdiocese “indefinitely,” officials said.

“We truly understand that taking this action may cause some disruption to our families, but we strongly believe that these measures taken now will have the greatest success of decreasing risk to the whole community,” the archdiocese said.

All Catholic elementary and high schools in Fairfield County, Conn., will also close on Friday through at least March 30, the Diocese of Bridgeport said in a statement. The decision affects around 9,000 students at 29 schools.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art said Thursday that it would temporarily close its Fifth Avenue flagship and two other locations — the Met Breuer on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and the Met Cloisters in northern Manhattan — starting Friday in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The American Museum of Natural History said it would be closed indefinitely starting Friday, and Jazz at Lincoln Center canceled all concerts and classes at Frederick P. Rose Hall.

The Met, which did not announce a target date for reopening, said it would undertake a thorough cleaning of its facilities and would announce further steps early next week.

The Met said that two employees had shown symptoms of the virus. One was awaiting test results; the other was at home.

The Frick Collection on Manhattan’s Upper East Side said Thursday that it was closing its galleries and library, and canceling all public events, while the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall canceled all performances and events through March 31. The Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art also said they would close.

Large night life venues, including House of Yes in Brooklyn and Knockdown Center in Queens, announced they were shutting down. But smaller, cabaret-style venues like Birdland Jazz Club and the Village Underground said they would continue to operate on reduced schedules.

Starting Friday, all events and public programing at New York City public libraries are been canceled. Library branches remain open for now, a spokeswoman said.

Late Thursday, the Chelsea Piers sports complex, citing the advice of public health officials, said it would shut down at midnight and remain closed at least through March 31. The company’s management said in a memo to the more than 1,000 people it employs that they were being put on a mandatory, unpaid furlough, but that their health benefits would continue and that they would receive some extra pay with their last check.

Orthodox Jewish leaders in Bergen County, N.J., have enacted sweeping social-distancing policies, including closing synagogues and schools, imposing restrictions on kosher restaurants and placing limits on funerals and mourning visitations.

The Rabbinical Council of Bergen County said in a statement that it made its decision after being told that public health officials “need our help to slow the spread of the disease before their resources are overwhelmed.”

The council said members of the community were “strongly encouraged” to work from home and to keep their children from socializing with classmates, which would undermine the purpose of closing schools.

The council also instructed people not to gather for Shabbat meals, and it asked kosher restaurants to fill only delivery and takeout orders, rather than seating customers. Funerals will be restricted to small groups of family members and a minyan, or quorum needed for religious ceremonies. The council said in-person shiva visits should be replaced with phone calls or video chats.

Because of the outbreak, religious services were suspended at other houses of worship in the New York area. They included Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, one of the largest Presbyterian congregations in America, which said it would close on Sunday “for the foreseeable future”; and the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, which said it would be closed through Sunday after its pastor, the Rev. Roy Cole, was diagnosed with Covid-19.

Father Cole was found to have the virus on Wednesday after “recent testing” but had already been discharged from the hospital, the church said in a statement. It said he was “following all instructions and receiving good care.”

Romemu, a popular synagogue on the Upper West Side, said it was “immediately ceasing all in-person activities,” including prayer services and educational programming, on Thursday afternoon.

Reporting was contributed by Jonah Engel Bromwich, Michael Gold, Corey Kilgannon, Jeffery C. Mays, Jesse McKinley, Azi Paybarah, Robin Pogrebin, Eliza Shapiro, Liam Stack and Tracey Tully.

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