Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to announce a moratorium on large events and public gatherings after days of resisting the measure — as his former health commissioner said she’s concerned about the city’s slow response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Gatherings of 1,000 people or more will be banned to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, according to a City Hall source who said the announcement is expected later Thursday.
The city has 62 coronavirus cases, up from 53 yesterday.
De Blasio said on CNN Thursday morning that he’s planning to “introduce more and more restrictions” but he did not provide details and he said he hopes Broadway won’t go dark. An usher who worked at two theaters tested positive Tuesday.
Officials with the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have been advocating for a moratorium, a second source said.
The mayor has also opposed the measure.
“All that changes today,” the second source said.
A spokeswoman for the mayor denied an imminent ban on large gatherings.
On Wednesday de Blasio said he wasn’t ready to close cultural and sporting venues like Broadway and Madison Square Garden.
The mayor’s former health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett who now teaches at Harvard, expressed concern about de Blasio’s dithering.
“New York City has the best health department in the country and he should follow their advice,” Bassett said.
“I’m worried. It doesn’t look like we’re prepared,” she added.
“The only way to dampen an epidemic when it gets to community spread is to practice social distancing,” Bassett said. That includes telling restaurants to spread out seating, banning large gatherings, closing venues like Madison Square Garden, and shuttering other recreational and cultural institutions.
“That’s a hard decision that’s going to have to be made. I would say it should be made sooner versus later like right now,” she said.
Rob Bennett, a former communications adviser to de Blasio, also urged the mayor to act.
“I know the Mayor to be someone capable of making smart, bold decisions,” Bennett said.
“Now’s the time to be that guy. Most especially, he needs to pull the trigger and close the Broadway theaters. If he won’t, Governor Cuomo should,” Bennett said.
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