He had resisted pressure for days, but finally resigned himself: the mayor of New York announced on Sunday the closure of New York public schools and then that of bars and restaurants, in turn depriving the financial and cultural capital of the United States. United in social life in the face of the threat of the coronavirus.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced at the end of the afternoon the closure, from Monday until at least April 20, of some 1,800 schools in the city, attended by 1.1 million students – i.e. largest school district in the United States.
Then, in the evening, following the example of the Italian or French authorities, he announced that this flagship city of world tourism would sign a decree on Monday limiting the activity of restaurants, bars and cafes to take-away sales and deliveries to home – essential services for many New Yorkers – starting Tuesday 9:00 a.m.
Nightclubs, cinemas, small theaters and concert halls – which had not closed after Thursday’s ban on gatherings of more than 500 people and the extinguishing of fires on Broadway and in most museums – will also have to close at effective Tuesday.
“These places are an integral part of the heart and soul of our city”, lamented the mayor. “They are part of what it is to be New Yorkers. But our city faces an unprecedented threat, and we must react as if we are at war,” he added.
“We will get through this eventually, but until we do, we have to make all the necessary sacrifices,” he said.
For 48 hours, the pressure on the mayor of the first American metropolis, whose number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus is increasing rapidly and reached 329 cases on Sunday, including 5 dead, has continued to mount.
The decision to close public schools was particularly difficult for the authorities, who had long hoped to be able to maintain this vital lung to the economic functioning of the city.
It took 48 hours of increasingly insistent calls from several unions, parents of students, elected officials and hospital officials to convince them to agree to give up this “pillar” of New York life.
– Symbol of resilience –
The pressure was all the greater as many other American school districts, including those in Los Angeles, Seattle or Washington, representing millions of students, had already closed their establishments, as had almost all new private schools. -Yorkis.
The mayor repeated that a closure would have cascading effects even worse than the risk of contamination via children, clearly fearing a paralysis of “the city that never sleeps” and its 8.5 million inhabitants.
“If you no longer have public transport, health professionals, emergency personnel, many of them will no longer be able to go where they need to go. If you no longer have schools, a lot of people we need will no longer be able to work if they have to take care of their children, ”he defended.
He also stressed the fact that thousands of children from poor families depended on schools for lunch, and that many did not have internet access.
Finally, the governor of the State of New York, Andrew Cuomo, after having also long balked at this measure, did not leave him the choice: Sunday afternoon, he ordered the mayor to find under 24 hours a solution to provide meals to needy children and allow parents in the health sector to continue working, so that schools can be closed immediately.
Teachers will therefore train intensively from Monday to the “challenge” of online education, said De Blasio, stressing that things “would gradually improve”.
The authorities recommend that anyone who can switch to telecommuting. For now, subways, buses and airports are still open, even if they are more and more deserted. And you could still visit the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building.