New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told police officers to get "more aggressive" in enforcing social distancing Wednesday as he closed the Big Apple's playgrounds and basketball courts.
Cuomo said he was shutting the facilities because youngsters were failing to comply with guidelines aimed to contain the deadly and fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic.
"You still see too many situations with too much density by young people. Compliance is still not where it should be," he said.
"Use the open space in a park, walk around, get some sun. Great. No density, no basketball games."
He called on the city's police officers to do more to break up public gatherings of residents.
"The NYPD has to get more aggressive. Period," said the governor.
New York City's police officers have themselves been affected by the new coronavirus.
Chief Terence Monahan, who supervises uniformed officers, tweeted Wednesday that more than 1,000 NYPD police officers had tested positive and some 5,600 are on sick leave.
His comments come after Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier this week that New Yorkers could be fined up to $500 for failing to practice social distancing.
The state's almost 20 million residents have been told to stay at home, unless for essential activities, until mid-April, a timeframe that is likely to be extended with the peak of the pandemic expected at the end of the month.
New York is by far America's worst-hit state, accounting for almost 2,000 COVID-19 deaths out of nearly 4,500 nationwide.
Cuomo said more than 83,700 declared cases had been declared statewide, out of more than 200,000 across the country.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to the press at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, on March 27, 2020