De Blasio Warns Coronavirus In New York Is Inevitable

Sean Adams
January 28, 2020 - 3:51 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Mayor Bill de Blasio is warning that the arrival of coronavirus in New York is not a matter of if, but when.

"It's probably here already, that's the sad reality," de Blasio told NY1. "We have to expect to see this here. What we now know is this virus was underestimated by the Chinese government."

The mayor is urging people who have returned from China with a respiratory infection to take swift action.

"If anyone matches those criteria, they need to get to a doctor right away," de Blasio said. "The best chance of protecting them, but also stopping the spread, is quick medical attention."

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Five Americans have tested positive for coronavirus and another 73 are being tested, including some in the Tri-State area.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced while there are no confirmed cases in New York State, nine people have been tested for the potentially deadly disease. Four of the results came back negative, but five invidividuals are still in isolation pending results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Jersey is evaluating one person and a student at Westleyan University in Connecticut is in isolation after complaining of cough and a fever after traveling through an airport where there was a confirmed case of the virus.

This is a rapidly evolving situation

Health officials in China said Tuesday that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases jumped by 60 percent to more than 4,500 across the country. The death toll also rose to 106. 

"Initially people thought that once you are symptomatic, when you're showing that you have a fever, a cough or tightness in the chest, only then would you be able to transmit the virus, but now it seems to be that even without any symptoms you can transmit the virus which is of course causing fears and higher panic across the country," CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio told WCBS 880.

China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to prevent people from spreading the virus. The lockdown affects more than 50 million people.

Hong Kong announced all rail connections to mainland China will be severed starting Friday as virus fears grow.

China has also prohibited millions of people from traveling, but symptoms of coronavirus could take two weeks to develop and infected people may have already flown all around the globe.

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The CDC has been screening travelers at some airports, including John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens.

Southern California is preparing to receive a plane full of Americans from Wuhan, the center of the outbreak. The plan is to screen and quarantine them when they arrive.  

Most major U.S. airlines are waiving change and cancellation fees to customers who had booked flights to China.

American, United and Delta extended change fee waivers through the end of next month. United is also offering refunds to passengers traveling to Wuhan if they bought their ticket before Jan. 21.

On Tuesday, the city's Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, was in Chinatown to try to ease fears. The concerns are evident with a common accessory seen on the street. 

"We would not be recommending the use of masks as protective measures," said Barbot.

Officials say if you haven't been to China and you haven't spent time with someone who has you're unlikely to become infected. 

"The transmission is almost I would say primarily in contacts that live with each other, meaning that it takes prolonged exposure to have the virus transmitted," Barbot said.