Coronavirus: NYC Resident Being Tested After Traveling To Italy

WCBS 880 Newsroom
February 28, 2020 - 11:25 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — At least one person in New York City is currently being tested for coronavirus after recently traveling to Italy, health officials said Thursday night.

The federal government recently expanded its criteria to test for coronavirus to include Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea, leading health officials to identify the city resident.

City Health Commission Oxiris Barbot confirmed the person is being tested and results should return soon.

Mayor Bil de Blasio confirmed Friday on his WNYC stressed this is the sole suspect case in the city at this time.

"In terms of our batting average, seven previous individuals identified as potential, zero came back positive. All came back negative and that's good news," de Blasio said. "And I really believe, and our public health officials believe this firmly. It is because new yorkers are following the guidance the second they may think they have the symptoms they are going to the doctor, they're getting care. That is the difference maker. That is not what happened in china and other places where the public messaging was the exact reverse of what it should've been."

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus within the five boroughs, or the rest of New York State.

Meanwhile, approximately 700 people throughout the rest of the state are being monitored for possible exposure to the virus after returning from abroad, according to the health department.

Among the hundreds asked to voluntarily isolate themselves for two weeks out of an abundance of caution are 83 people in Nassau County, 29 in Suffolk County and eight in Westchester.

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Nassau County's Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein said, "Right now anybody coming back from China within the last 14 days, even if they weren't exposed to anybody, is undergoing this 'remove yourself from the community.'"

Westchester's Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler said the eight people being monitored in the county are healthy and stressed no one is ill.

"We're not going to frighten the public by coming up with the worst case scenario because we are not near the worst case scenario, but be advised we are planning for what the worst case scenario would be," Westchester County Executive George Latimer said. "We're prudent people and we have to take prudent action but we also have to be measured and controlled in the way we respond to these things."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that he believes it's "highly probable" that coronavirus will spread to New York.

“It is highly probable that you’ll see a continuing spread of this virus. It’s highly probable that we will have people in New York State who test positive,” he said during a press conference.

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He adds that the large amount of tourists that flock to the state and New York City every day puts our area at great risk and the state's Department of Health will work with area airports to make sure employees are properly trained and have access to cleaning and protective equipment.

“New York is the front door, internationally. We have people traveling here from all across the world. You see how it’s spreading and affecting different countries – Italy recently – but that will continue. Again, I think it’s highly probable and no one should be surprised when we have positive cases in New York,” Cuomo said.

The governor plans to ask for $40 million to help the health department respond to the threat of the COVID-19 virus. The money would go to hiring additional staff, procuring equipment and any other resources necessary to respond to the potential novel coronavirus pandemic. 

So far, no cases in New Jersey are being monitored and there are no confirmed cases in the Tri-State area.

Mayor Bill de Blasio joined New York City health officials on Wednesday to outline a plan to address the virus when it shows up in the city.

"It's been clear for weeks that it's not a question of IF the coronavirus comes to our country but WHEN," Mayor de Blasio tweeted. "The precautions we put in place back in January have had a positive impact."

"We’re in a state of high vigilance, high readiness all across city government to address this crisis," de Blasio said.

Adding "When necessary, 1,200 hospital beds will be available throughout the city to treat affected patients. 1.5 million surgical masks have also been bought for healthcare professionals and first responders, including the NYPD."

According to NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan., thousands upon thousands of gloves, masks, and wipes have been handed out tho their command. "Patrols, housing and transit has them," Monahan said

The mayor also urged New Yorkers to immediately seek a doctor if you develop any flu-like symptoms.

And the mayor, to shave hours off the process, is strongly urging the Trump administration to allow local labs to do the testing for the coronavirus.

The MTA is using subway screens to warn passengers about COVID-19. Riders will see health guidelines in multiple languages on thousands of electronic screns. The MTA is also offering extended hours for employees to get flu shots.

Also on Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced that he has appointed Vice President Mike Pence to oversee the federal government's response to coronavirus.

Over 80,000 people have been infected globally from the viral outbreak that began in Wuhan, China and more than 2,700 people have died.

With outbreaks reported in Italy, South Korea and Iran, officials from the CDC said Tuesday that it is inevitable that the coronavirus will spread more widely in America, where the total number of cases is at 60. On Wednesday, the first coronavirus case of unknown origin was confirmed in Northern California, a sign that the virus may already spreading in a U.S. community.

“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen — and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the CDC.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told WCBS 880 this week that the coronavirus is likely to become a global pandemic if containment measures aren’t improved.