No cases of coronavirus have been reported in New York, but state and city officials are taking the necessary steps in order to help residents should the situation change.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told an afternoon news conference that the state is preparing for the worst-case scenario as it does in these situations.
“I’ve said before, it’s highly probable that you will see a continuing spread of this virus,” he said. “It’s highly probable that we will have people in New York state who test positive. New York is the front door, internationally.”
Cuomo said the state would be taking a number of steps, including asking the legislature for an emergency supplement of $40 million for the state health department.
The Department of Health will also convene a meeting with local health departments to work out protocols if people must be quarantined. They will also be working with local hospitals, mass transit and airports.
The governor also put the situation in perspective, saying 17,000 people in the state had the flu last week.
“Yes we’re preparing,” he said. “But this isn’t a situation that should cause undue fear.”
Samples from 27 New Yorkers have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing, 26 have come back negative with one result still pending.
The governor is also calling on the federal government to authorize the Wadsworth Center and NYC Public Health Lab to test for the virus, allowing for expanded testing capacity and expedited test results. New York State has independently worked to develop and validate a test using the CDC protocol.
The CDC on Tuesday warned the American public to prepare for an an outbreak of the disease, which has spawned more than 80,000 cases around the world but relatively few so far in the U.S.
There are thousands of confirmed cases in China, including cases outside of Wuhan and additional cases being identified in a growing number of countries internationally, including the United States.
The spread of the new coronavirus to Italy has led universities to reassess study abroad programs in the country, with many American schools this week calling their students back to the U.S.
NEW YORK CITY
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio said there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York City.
“Every single potential case has come back negative,” he said.
Seven cases have been tested in the city.
The mayor also called out the CDC for being too slow to acknowledge it was a matter of “if not when” coronavirus would spread.
He called upon the federal government to expand the testing regimen beyond visitors to China to include those landing from Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
The New York City health department says it is preparing for all possible scenarios.
The city has 1,200 hospital beds can be made available immediately if needed.
Health officials have already distributed 1.5 mllion masks and the city is asking the federal government to help get another 300,000.
“Everyone’s competing for masks,” de Blasio said, adding the federal government needs to step in to make sure they get where they’re needed.
NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said they are also making sure first responders are well prepared and protected.
“We’ve given out thousands upon thousands of gloves masks and wipes to our command. Patrol, housing, transit has them,” he said. “We have put out disinfectant to each and every command. and as of now there is nothing in New York City. We have sat down with counterterrorism about this and what the threat may be. We are prepared. Our men and women are prepared, if and when it hits the city. The equipment is already out and we have a lot more in storage.”
New York City Public Schools are also taking preventive measures, but officials said there are no plans to close schools at this time.
“This is an extreme measure that can be disruptive to day-to-day life, and the decision to implement will be at the direction of public health experts. All New Yorkers should continue to practice general flu prevention measures,” de Blasio said.
Officials in Nassau County announced Wednesday they are monitoring 83 people who may have had potential exposure to the coronavirus, and test results for one resident are pending.
The 83 residents have been asked to undergo voluntary isolation, removing themselves from people, including their family members, for 14 days from the last time they were in mainland China or may have been exposed to the virus. They are required to report their temperature and any symptoms every day to Nassau County health officials.
NEW YORK UNIVERSITIES
Schools including Syracuse University in upstate New York as well as Sacred Heart University and Fairfield University, both in Connecticut, said they are canceling programs in Italy, where the death toll rose to 12 on Wednesday and the caseload reached 374.
Syracuse will assist the 342 students studying at its Florence campus return to the U.S., school officials announced Tuesday. School officials said they were concerned about restrictions on students’ ability to travel and move about the city.
“We believe this is absolutely necessary to reduce the risk of our students being unable to leave Italy due to Italian confinement efforts,” said Steven Bennett, the university’s senior vice president for international programs and academic operations.
New York University, which already has transitioned to online instruction at its program in Shanghai, announced this week it is suspending its classes in Florence and will begin holding classes remotely next week.
“While we do not believe there is a pressing health threat to the NYU Florence community, the past month has taught us that countries may swiftly and unexpectedly make decisions that can significantly affect one’s ability to travel,” NYU spokesman John Beckman said.