The governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut said that they are working to limit crowd capacity for recreational and social gatherings to 50 people starting at 8 p.m. on Monday throughout the tri-state area.
"Our primary goal right now is to slow the spread of this virus so that the wave of new infections doesn't crash our health care system, and everyone agrees social distancing is the best way to do that," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. "This is not a war that can be won alone, which is why New York is partnering with our neighboring states to implement a uniform standard that not only keeps our people safe but also prevents 'state shopping' where residents of one state travel to another and vice versa."
The governors said essential businesses like supermarkets and gas stations will be able to stay open after 8 p.m., though all non-essential businesses must close, including movie theaters and casinos. Restaurants will be able to offer take-out and delivery.
The steps mark the latest escalation of efforts to keep people apart in the New York metropolitan area, and an attempt to coordinate a response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“We've got to work through this together. The feds have been asleep at the switch," Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told reporters on a conference call.
Lamont, Cuomo, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy are Democrats. The trio took aim at what they called lagging federal action in response to the crisis. It's unclear when business will return to normal.
“It's chaos. I think it actually feeds the feeling that the country's out of control. There is no clear direction, there is no clear path,” Cuomo said during a joint conference call with the other governors.
Murphy said that with "all we are seeing" in the Garden State, the time arrived to take "our strongest, and most direct, actions" to slow COVID-19.
"I've said many times over the past several days that, in our state, we are going to get through this as one New Jersey family," the New Jersey governor said in a statement. "But if we're all in this together, we must work with our neighboring states to act together. The work against coronavirus isn't just up to some of us, it's up to all of us."
Cuomo said he was calling on the federal government to implement nationwide protocols but "in their absence, we are taking this on ourselves."
At a news conference on Monday, Cuomo said there should be 7,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of the week. He also took time to praise Vice President Pence and President Trump for "great mobilization" on testing while also urging the federal government to do more to expand medical treatment facilities.
New drive-thru testing sites will be opening on Staten Island, Staten Island, and Rockland County, according to the New York governor.
"We're doing everything to flatten the curve," Cuomo said, adding. "I don't think we are going to be able to flatten the curve enough to meet the capacity of the health care system."
He stressed that the health care system will be overwhelmed if nothing is done, adding the federal government must use the Army Corps of Engineers to build medical capacity.
The state of New York has seen seven deaths related to coronavirus. Of the 950 cases reported in the Empire State, 158 have required hospitalizations, about 17 percent.
There have been a total of 68 deaths in the U.S. linked to COVID-19.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The vast majority of people recover. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
In addition to the three Northeast states, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts and Washington state also are among places that have ordered bars to close and restaurants to stop dine-in service amid the growing number of COVID-19 cases.
Fox News' Kathleen Foster and the Associated Press contributed to this report.