New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday he will announce new restrictions on gatherings to halt the spread of the new coronavirus in the coming days, but he hopes to avoid closing all public events such as Broadway shows.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Opera, meanwhile, announced that they would shut down because of virus concerns.
“The Met’s priority is to protect and support our staff, volunteers, and visitors,” Daniel Weiss, the museum’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. He said the museum would close its three locations starting Friday. No date for reopening was given.
The opera company said all performances have been canceled through March 31.
De Blasio earlier said on CNN, “I don’t want to see Broadway go dark if we can avoid it. I want to see if we can strike some kind of balance.”
A part-time usher and security guard who worked at two theaters in recent days tested positive for COVID-19 and is under quarantine, according to the Shubert and Nederlander organizations, Broadway’s largest theater chains.
The mayor spoke hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade would be postponed for the first time in its 258-year history. De Blasio tweeted Wednesday that the parade will take place at some future date “whether it’s in the heat of summer or on a clear fall day.”
De Blasio said the city has 62 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Thursday morning. There are more than 200 cases statewide, with the largest cluster in the suburb of New Rochelle north of New York City.
The new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness including pneumonia.
As it spreads around the globe, the virus has prompted quarantines and and restrictions on gatherings, including Wednesday’s announced cancellation of the remainder of the NBA season.
De Blasio said in a statement that two public schools that share a building in the Bronx will close for 24 hours because a student tested positive for COVID-19.
But the mayor said on CNN that he hopes to avoid drastic measures such as shutting the city’s entire public school system or its subways.
“I’m a believer that we have to be careful not to destroy people’s livelihoods, not to destroy the opportunity for our kids to be in a safe place learning every day in school,” he said. “And yet we’re going to have to introduce more and more restrictions, which we’re certainly going to be doing in New York City today and tomorrow.”
North of the city in hard-hit New Rochelle, camouflage-clad National Guard troops helped distribute food to residents Thursday. State officials this week set up a “containment area” in the suburb in which schools and houses of worship are closed within a 1-mile radius of a point near a synagogue associated with the local cluster of cases. People who aren’t personally quarantined will be able to leave their homes and go to work or elsewhere. Businesses can remain open, and residents or visitors are free to walk around.
The Cuomo administration did not say how many troops were mobilized.
Though cases were concentrated in the New York City area, confirmations were reported in new parts of the state. Officials in Rochester said the first known case in western New York involved a man who had visited Italy. The University at Albany suspended classes Thursday after a student tested positive for COVID-19, one of two new cases in the county.