On March 22 2020, with an exponential rate of new COVID cases in the New York State, Governor Cuomo signed two documents:
- The executive order “New York State on PAUSE,” which contains a set of 10 rules for the general population, including closing all non-essential business and banning the gatherings of individuals for any reason.
- “Mathilda’s law,” named after the governor’s mother, which adds measures to protect “vulnerable populations,” including people over 70 years old and people with compromised immune systems, requiring them to remain indoors (Office of the New York State Governor 2020).
These extensive measures were taken by state authorities to contain the spread of the virus and its impact on health systems. They ranged from school and business closures, to lockdowns and travel restrictions, to directives for individuals. These measures contained in the executive order created differential restrictions, risk exposure and management for New York’s population. Dividing the general population in three manageable categories with different levels of exposure to risk and contamination, the executive order not only distributed an uneven burden over one’s health and safety but exacerbated them, while reproducing preexisting and deeply embedded societal disparities. This also created different conditions in accessing human rights and enacting social participation.
The three categories were enacted as follows:
- 100% of the workforce were mandated to stay home;
- Essential services were excluded. The workers would continue their activities, risking contamination and illnesses. These exemptions included media, shipping, warehousing, grocery and food production, banks, financial services, healthcare providers, pharmacies, utilities, etc.
- Mathilda’s Law added restrictive, self-managed measures for “vulnerable populations.”
The Governor’s 10-point New York State on PAUSE plan is as follows:
- Effective at 8PM on Sunday, March 22, all non-essential businesses statewide will be closed;
- Non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason (e.g. parties, celebrations or other social events) are canceled or postponed at this time;
- Any concentration of individuals outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced;
- When in public individuals must practice social distancing of at least six feet from others;
- Businesses and entities that provide other essential services must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet;
- Individuals should limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact and avoid activities where they come in close contact with other people;
- Individuals should limit use of public transportation to when absolutely necessary and should limit potential exposure by spacing out at least six feet from other riders;
- Sick individuals should not leave their home unless to receive medical care and only after a telehealth visit to determine if leaving the home is in the best interest of their health;
- Young people should also practice social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable populations; and
- Use precautionary sanitizer practices such as using isopropyl alcohol wipes.
“Matilda’s Law” includes the following rules for vulnerable populations:
- Remain indoors;
- Can go outside for solitary exercise;
- Pre-screen all visitors and aides by taking their temperature and seeing if person is exhibiting other flu-like symptoms;
- Do not visit households with multiple people;
- Wear a mask when in the company of others;
- To the greatest extent possible, everyone in the presence of vulnerable people should wear a mask;
- Always stay at least six feet away from individuals; and
- Do not take public transportation unless urgent and absolutely necessary.