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New York City orders all entertainment venues to close starting March 17

Just hours after New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced the closure of the district’s public schools in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, a second notice has ordered the closure of all entertainment venues in the city.

Effectively putting the city that never sleeps into an induced coma, the notice, issued by the mayor’s office on Sunday, March 15, said nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses, and concert venues must all stay closed from 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17, until further notice. Restaurants, cafes, and bars must also close their doors but can continue to fulfill take-out orders.

The drastic measure comes as the coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19, continues to spread across the U.S. and the rest of the world, with new cases being reported daily.

“Our lives are changing in ways that were unimaginable just a week ago,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement (below). “We are taking a series of actions that we never would have taken otherwise in an effort to save the lives of loved ones and our neighbors. Now it is time to take yet another drastic step. The virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together. We have to break that cycle.”

He went on: “Tomorrow, I will sign an Executive Order limiting restaurants, bars, and cafes to food take-out and delivery. Nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses and concert venues must all close. The order will go into effect Tuesday, March 17 at 9 a.m.”

Many comments on social media asked the mayor how employees at such venues are supposed to cover their living costs now that they’re unable to work. We’ve reached out to the mayor’s office to find out if it’s planning to offer support to those who need it.

The order follows the announcement of slightly less stringent measures requested by New York State governor Andrew Cuomo on March 13. Those involved banning gatherings of 500 people or more in the state, and, for facilities with an occupancy of 500 or fewer, reducing the legal capacity by 50%. The ruling prompted Broadway theaters to close their doors at the end of last week.

A number of independent movie houses in Manhattan had already announced temporary closures following Cuomo’s announcement. The IFC Center, for example, suspended operations on March 14, while the Film Forum will close its doors on March 15. The Quad, on the other hand, had planned to continue with screenings after announcing increased measures to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. We’ve reached out to The Quad to find out what it makes of the mayor’s decision.

The move to temporarily close all entertainment venues in one of the world’s most vibrant cities reflects the increasing concern over COVID-19, though the effectiveness of such measures remains to be seen. Meanwhile, owners of affected businesses, and those that work for them, will have major worries about the impact of this latest action, while the rest of us are left wondering what’s coming next.

UPDATE: Shortly after New York City’s announcement, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced similar measures effective from March 16 until at least March 31. “This isn’t easy & I don’t make this decision lightly,” Garcetti said in a tweet (below) announcing the decision.

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