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Gov. Andrew Cuomo closes NYC playgrounds; Florida, Mississippi order lockdowns

By Don Jacobson & Danielle Haynes & Daniel Uria
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo closes NYC playgrounds; Florida, Mississippi order lockdowns
A medical professional pushes a coronavirus patient on a stretcher Tuesday through the emergency room entrance at Elmhurst Hospital Center in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

April 1 (UPI) -- New York's death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is approaching 2,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday -- as his counterparts in Florida and Mississippi dropped resistance to imposing a statewide lockdown to stem the spread.

At his briefing update, Cuomo said New York has recorded 400 more deaths, bringing the state total to 1,941. The number of cases in the state, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak, grew by about 8,000, he added.

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Cuomo also ordered all playgrounds and basketball courts in New York City, which are usual hotspots for activity, to close.

"I warned people that if they didn't stop the density and the [basketball] games in the playgrounds ... that we would close [them]," he said.

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The governor added, however, that open spaces in parks will stay open to provide residents with areas to exercise with less density.

President Donald Trump, during a briefing by the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Wednesday, reiterated that he will not issue a national stay-at-home order, saying that some states "don't have much of a problem" with the virus.

"You have to give a little flexibility," he said. "If you have a state in the Midwest, or if Alaska, for example, doesn't have a problem, it's awfully tough to say close it down. We have to have a little bit of flexibility."

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Trump also said he was weighing the financial implications of shutting down airline flights between states that have become coronavirus hotspots saying that doing so would be "clamping down on an industry that is desperately needed."

"Closing up every single flight on every single airline, that's a very, very, very rough decision," said Trump. "But we are thinking of hotspots, where you go from spot to spot, both hot," he said, adding that he was also considering similar restrictions for rail travel.

In Florida Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis imposed a 30-day stay-home order barring residents from venturing outside except for essential purposes. For weeks he refused to issue the order, instead favoring a statewide encouragement for Floridians to remain mostly at home.

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Florida had nearly 7,000 coronavirus cases as of Wednesday evening.

DeSantis, a Republican and close political ally of Trump, said a day earlier he hadn't been asked by the White House to issue a stay-home order.

U.S. copes with COVID-19 pandemic

Bass Pro Shops marketing manager David Smith (R) carries a box of donated face masks into Mercy Health in Chesterfield, Mo., on May 13. The company is donating 1 million FDA-approved ASTM Level 1 Procedure Face Masks to healthcare workers and first responders working on the front lines of the pandemic. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

"The task force has not recommended that to me. If they do, obviously that would be something that carries a lot of weight with me," he said.

His 30-day order, which takes effect at midnight Thursday, requires limited movements and personal interactions. Earlier this week, DeSantis gave a similar order for southeastern Florida, where most of the state's population lives.

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Later Wednesday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued his own stay-at-home order after the state had its largest one-day rise in cases. The order, which goes into effect 5 p.m. Friday, requires all residents to stay home except to shop for essentials such as groceries, providing care for someone else or going to work at an essential business.

"We believe this is the right tool, at the right time, to save lives," Reeves said in a news conference.

In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp said he plans to announce a shelter-in-place order Thursday. That order will go into effect Friday and include the closure of all K-12 schools through the end of the school year.

At least 33 states and the District of Columbia have issued orders to stay home.

In the United States, there were more than 213,000 cases and more than 4,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University as of 5 p.m. Wednesday. More than 8,400 people have recovered from the virus.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reviewing its thinking about otherwise healthy people wearing face masks to ward off the virus.

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Adams, the CDC, and the World Health Organization had all previously said it was not necessary for the general public to wear face masks.

"We've learned there's a fair amount of asymptomatic spread and so we've asked the CDC to take another look at whether or not having more people wear masks will prevent transmission of the disease to other people," he told ABC's Good Morning America.

In New Jersey, authorities have charged 10 people who attended an engagement party with violating lockdown rules. Police in Lakewood, N.J., broke up the party Tuesday afternoon.

"No more knucklehead gatherings or parties. We have got to stay home," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Wednesday, Disney Parks announced it's donated more than 100,000 N95 face masks to areas in New York, California and Florida for use by front-line medical and emergency workers.

Disney, which closed Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida last week, said it's also donated 150,000 rain ponchos to humanitarian aid organization MedShare to give to hospitals for use as an alternative to surgical gowns, which are in short supply in some locations.

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