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Cuomo says NYC may close some streets to cars, open them to pedestrians amid coronavirus pandemic

A nearly empty 42nd Street on Wednesday in New York City.ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

New York City is in the process of “pilot closing” certain streets to vehicular traffic and opening them to pedestrians amid the coronavirus pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

Cuomo discussed the pilot plan during his daily briefing on the state’s coronavirus response.

He said the plan is being launched due to the lack of cars on city streets during the pandemic, combined with the need to allow pedestrians to practice social distancing when they’re out.

Cuomo lays out coronavirus action plan for New York
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlines the coronavirus plan for the state moving forward. (Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty, Video: Handout)

“You want a less dense area,” Cuomo said.

He didn’t indicate where the street pilot initiative will be launched in the city, and Mayor Bill De Blasio’s press office didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.


Cuomo said his state, an epicenter of the outbreak in the US, still has the “trajectory going up” on new coronavirus cases, though hospitalizations appear to be increasing at a slower rate in recent days. There are 30,000 positive cases statewide, including 17,000 in New York City, Cuomo said.

Regarding projections that hospitalizations are increasing at a slower rate, Cuomo said, “that is almost too good to be true, but the theory is, given the density that we’re dealing with, it spreads very quickly. But if you reduce the density, you can reduce the spread very quickly.”

The governor urged young people to take social distancing protocols seriously, especially at New York City public parks. He said city parks and playgrounds will close if social distancing isn’t followed.

“We don’t want to do that,” Cuomo said. " ... But you have to exercise social distancing, even in a playground."

He attributed the high number of coronavirus cases in New York to the fact that it welcomes “people from across the globe,” including international travelers who reach New York City first upon arrival in the US.


Cuomo also said New York’s “closeness” accounts for the rapid spread of the virus.

“It’s literally because we are close,” Cuomo said. “Because we live close to one another, because we’re close to one another on the street, because we live in close communities. ... We have one of the most dense, close environments in the country, and that’s why the virus" spread “the way it did.”

He said he’s asking hospitals in New York to increase bed capacity by at least 50 percent and will request that certain facilities increase their capacity by 100 percent. Ventilators remain an urgent need for the most severely ill patients, Cuomo said.

“No one ever anticipated a situation where you would need this number of ventilators, so we have purchased everything that can be purchased,” Cuomo said. “We are now in a situation that we are trying to accelerate production of these ventilators, and a ventilator is a complicated piece of equipment.”

He said he felt President Trump and his team are using the Defense Production Act “well” in this regard.

“I want to thank the president for his cooperation and his team for their cooperation,” Cuomo said. “We’re getting very creative” in talks with other countries and companies.

Travis Andersen can be reached at