In the U.S. and across the globe, more people were under official lockdowns or stay-at-home policies early Saturday as coronavirus cases and fatalities mounted.
After California’s governor issued the nation’s strictest “stay at home” order Thursday night, taking effect at midnight Friday. The governors of New York, Illinois and Connecticut did likewise, with Oregon among the states expected to follow suit.
All told, the orders would confine around 75 million Americans to their homes – able to go out only for essential reasons, such as vital work duties or to gather food and supplies.
“This is not a permanent state, this is a moment in time,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said, trying to assure the nation’s most populous state that the order would eventually lift.
In Los Angeles, the sight of nearly empty freeways was startling in a city long known for extensive traffic snarls.
New York, the state with the most COVID-19 cases in the nation, received a “major disaster” declaration Friday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), giving it access to a share of $42 billion in federal Disaster Relief Fund dollars.
Early Saturday, New York had more than 8,400 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 50 deaths, while the entire U.S. had more than 19,600 confirmed cases and about 250 deaths.
“No, this is not life as usual,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as the death toll in the U.S. topped 200, with at least 35 in his state. “Accept it and realize it and deal with it.”
Cuomo said that starting Sunday, all workers in nonessential businesses must stay home as much as possible, and all nonessential gatherings of any size for any reason will be banned in the state of over 19 million people.
“When I talk about the most drastic action we can take, this is the most drastic action we can take,” Cuomo said.
After announcing the state’s fourth fatality related to coronavirus, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said of the lockdown: “It’s tough medicine. I think it’s the right medicine. What we’re trying to do is everything we can to improve the supply when it comes to what we can do for our health care system.”
Extremely light traffic moves along the 110 Harbor Freeway toward downtown mid afternoon, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Los Angeles. Traffic would normally be bumper-to-bumper during this time of day on a Friday. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is ordering the state’s 40 million residents to stay at home indefinitely. His order restricts non-essential movements to control the spread of the coronavirus that threatens to overwhelm the state’s medical system. He called up 500 National Guard troops Thursday to help with distributing food.
Outside the U.S., Colombia’s president called for three weeks of home isolation, to begin Tuesday, with the capital Bogota already on lockdown Friday, The Associated Press reported.
Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela were already on lockdown.
Nations were hoping to avoid situations in China and Italy, where the most cases have occurred. China had more than 81,000 cases early Saturday while Italy had more than 47,000.
Worldwide, there were more than 275,000 coronavirus cases reported and 11,300 deaths.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.