New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday he has directed the New York Police Department to begin issuing fines of $250 to $500 to people who are not following social-distancing guidelines and who “don’t get it,” as the city grapples with the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.
De Blasio, in an interview with NBC’s “Today,” was asked about the arrival of the USNS Comfort Navy hospital ship in New York City a day earlier. The ship will provide thousands of additional hospital beds for the expected overflow of patients with severe cases of COVID-19 in the city’s hospitals.
“Look, we all feel a lot emotionally about the arrival of the Comfort. It’s giving us so much hope that our military is here, and we’re gonna need a lot more military presence,” de Blasio said. “But in the meantime, as much as we love the Comfort, we love the fact the military is here, people must practice social distancing.”
He added: “I’ve authorized our police to start giving out fines, $250, $500 fines, to people who don’t get it, because, at this point, we’ve said it. We’ve educated.”
De Blasio said those not taking social distancing seriously are “actually putting other people in danger.”
“And if we have to give them fines, we will,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio went on to warn that New York City has seen a “sharp upturn over the last days, certainly the last few weeks.”
“We have to look at this pattern and conclude that the worst is certainly in the next few weeks, minimum,” de Blasio explained.”I could see it going into May, in fact, with the numbers we’re looking at, because we are community spread one. And that’s really the issue.”
He added: “We have to plan for the worst.”
“Community spread means it’s out there and it continues to grow. And there’s a point where it stops like every other seasonal disease where there is an end point here,” he continued. “But for the weeks ahead, let’s not kid ourselves, it gets a lot worse before it gets better.”
New York has emerged as the epicenter of COVID-19 in the U.S., reporting more than 67,300 cases and 1,342 deaths in the state as of Tuesday morning; 38,000 of those positive cases are in New York City.
As of Tuesday morning, the U.S. reported more than 164,600 positive cases of the novel coronavirus, and 3,170 deaths.