New York Takes Measures To Stop Spread Of Coronavirus After 1st Case Confirmed

WCBS 880 Newsroom
March 02, 2020 - 10:07 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – A 39-year-old health care worker who lives in Manhattan has tested positive for the novel coronavirus — becoming New York State's first confirmed case of COVID-19.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the patient had contracted the virus while working in Iran and secluded herself immediatly upon returning to New York City last Tuesday.


The governor said she did not take public transportation and alerted medical staff at Mount Sinai Hospital, which arranged for her to be tested for the virus. The positive test was confirmed by the Wadsworth Lab in Albany.

The woman is isolated in her home with mild respiratory symptoms.

Health officials don’t believe she was contagious when she was on the plane or when she took a private car from airport to her residence, but disease detectives will be reaching out to people on that flight and the driver out of an abundance of caution.

City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said disease detectives will take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“While we hoped this moment wouldn’t come, it was something we prepared for," Barbot said in a statement Sunday. "Despite this development, New Yorkers remain at low risk for contracting COVID-19. As we confront this emerging outbreak, we need to separate facts from fear, and guard against stigma and panic." 

Tests on the woman’s husband — who is also a health care worker — are pending.

Cuomo said the assumption is he will test positive.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is reassuring the public saying health authorities have been in a state of high alert for weeks and that the city is fully prepared to respond.

“This is a situation that can be managed,” de Blasio said. “This is something we can all handle together.”

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the City Council will hold a hearing on Thursday to learn more about the city's preparedness for this disease.

The governor said there’s no doubt that there will be more cases, but New Yorkers should not panic.

“We said early on it wasn’t a question of if, but when, this is New York, we are a gateway to the world,” Cuomo said during a news conference Monday. “The whole challenge is about containment of the number of people who become exposed and infected. Our challenge now is to test as many people as you can.”

“You’re not going to eliminate the spread but you can limit the spread and testing is very important,” Cuomo added.

On Saturday, the FDA approved New York’s coronavirus test after delayed or unreliable tests by the CDC and Cuomo said this will have a dramatic effect on how quickly the state can mobilize and respond. He has set a goal for the state to have the capacity to perform 1,000 tests per day.

The state will also be instituting new cleaning protocols in schools and public transportation to use disinfectant, such as bleach.

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The governor said there is no cause for undue anxiety because the general risk remains low in New York.

“The facts defeat fear because the reality is reassuring; it is deep breath time,” Cuomo said. “When you look at the reality here, about 80 percent of the people who are infected with the coronavirus self-resolve, they have symptoms, and for most people they treat themselves and the virus resolves that way.”

The mortality rate of the virus is estimated at 1.4 percent, which is about one percentage point higher than the flu mortality rate. The majority of the deaths linked to COVID-19 involved elderly patients with underlying health problems, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned there will be cases involving otherwise healthy young people who will get seriously ill and perhaps die.

Children do not appear to be vulnerable to the virus.

De Blasio said New Yorkers should feel comfortable going about their daily lives.

"New Yorkers do not scare easily. They do not intimidate easily,'' he said, adding that if people do develop suspicious symptoms, they should see a doctor immediately.

There are currently no confirmed cases in New Jersey or Connecticut.

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More than 86,000 people worldwide have been infected with the virus, which has caused more than 2,900 deaths since emerging in China. 

The death toll from the coronavirus in the U.S. climbed to six on Monday. All of the deaths were reported in Washington state. Researchers said the virus may have been circulating for weeks undetected in the greater Seattle area.

New cases have also been confirmed in Illinois, Rhode Island, Oregon and Florida, where officials have declared a public health emergency.

In California, two health care workers in the San Francisco Bay Area tested positive after they were exposed to a patient now being treated for the virus at a hospital in Sacramento

Following news of the country's first death tied to the coronavirus outbreak, President Donald Trump assured the public there was no need to panic adding that "our country is prepared for any circumstance."

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence, who was selected to lead America's coronavirus response efforts, announced that the U.S. has expanded Iran travel restrictions and raised an advisory to Level Four (the highest level) for regions in South Korea and Italy — where the outbreak has spread.

Delta and American airlines are temporarily suspending flights between Milan, Italy and John F. Kennedy International Airport amid concerns about the novel coronavirus. 

Delta's last flight to Milan will depart Monday, and the last New York-bound flight from Milan will depart Tuesday.

Service will not resume until May.

American says it will resume flights to and from Milan on April 25.

Health officials believe the virus spreads similar to the flu through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) encourages people to wash their hands thoroughly, use hand sanitizer, and cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.

They also discourage the general public from wearing face masks unless they are showing symptoms.