NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated a one-mile containment zone in New Rochelle, the epicenter of the state’s outbreak, to curb the spread of the coronavirus on the doorstep of New York City, he said in a news conference Tuesday.

There are 31 new cases across the state, bringing the total to 173, said Cuomo, a Democrat. More than half are in Westchester County, where New Rochelle is located.

“New Rochelle, at this point, is probably the largest cluster of these cases in the United States,” Cuomo said.

Schools, places of worship and other large gathering spots will close their doors for 14 days beginning Thursday, Cuomo said, and National Guard troops will help deliver food and disinfect common areas inside the zone.

The radius emanates from the Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue, which has been ground zero for infections in the area.

People living and working inside the zone can go about their day and visit businesses such as grocery stores, and movement won’t be restricted, the governor said, but large gatherings will be discouraged. “You are not containing people,” he said. “You are containing facilities.”

“This is not an exclusion or quarantine zone,” New Rochelle Mayor Noam Branson told reporters in a Tuesday afternoon news conference. Several thousand people live within the one-mile radius. People can freely enter and leave.

“The heaviest burdens” of the virus fell on the congregants of Young Israel, Branson said. “There has been a great commitment to the common good” from members who self-quarantined.

New Rochelle schools superintendent Laura Feijóo said the order will affect three schools – an elementary school, a middle school and a high school. She reiterated that the district did not want to close but was doing so in response to the governor’s office directive.

“We believe students are safest in schools and are eager to reopen as soon as possible,” she told parents in an email Tuesday. “It is inevitable that one of our students or staff will contract the virus. What is in our control is to be ready, calm, decisive, and responsive to any and all circumstances which may arise.”

At 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, a steady stream of high school students walked home from school for what would be the final time in the upcoming two weeks.

After the students passed, the foot traffic vanished from the sidewalks along North Avenue in downtown New Rochelle.

When the National Guard arrives in New Rochelle, it will distribute thousands of meals and assist with cleaning, Branson, the mayor, said. The one-mile zone will not be militarized or have checkpoints. The troops had not arrived yet, he said, and he did not know when they would.

The city does not have the resources to deliver hot meals to the city’s students who rely on school breakfasts and lunches. Nursing and retirement homes in the city were refusing visitors and, he said, seniors in New Rochelle would receive cold meals delivered. The senior center was closed.

Cuomo urged calm after declaring the containment zone by stressing the reality of those most affected – older people with health problems. Washington state and New York have a near-identical number of confirmed infections, he noted, but no deaths in New York have been reported. The deaths in Washington state have centered on a nursing home.

Fourteen people of the 173 confirmed cases are hospitalized in New York, Cuomo said.

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