What to Know
- New York now has 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 9 of whom are tied to one ill Westchester man
- The husband of an infected Manhattan woman tested negative, though authorities expected otherwise
- To date, coronavirus or COVID-19 has infected more than 90,000 people worldwide and killed thousands; nine people have died in the United States
The wife, son, daughter and neighbor of a midtown Manhattan lawyer who has been hospitalized in severe condition since being diagnosed with the novel coronavirus have now also tested positive, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
In addition, a friend of the lawyer, that friend's wife, their two sons and one daughter have now all tested positive as well. In all, that means 11 people have been infected in New York state.
"The number of people infected will continue to increase. It’s a function of mathematics," the governor noted. “It is going to be dozens and dozens and dozens."
The lawyer's 20-year-old son, a student at Yeshiva University in Manhattan, had been symptomatic prior to his father's hospitalization. No details on the son's condition were immediately available. Cuomo said the son had been living in the dorms at Yeshiva and that the school would be closed at least through Friday pending additional investigation and information. Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a separate statement Wednesday, said the son's roommate and friend from the campus were sent to Bellevue for testing.
The lawyer — who works in the city but lives in Westchester — has a 14-year-old daughter who attends SAR Academy and High School in the Bronx. School administrators voluntarily shut down the facility as a precaution.
Less was known about the movements or condition of the man's wife, or his neighbor, who initially drove him to the doctor's office to seek help. The neighbor's children are currently being tested, Cuomo said.
At a Wednesday afternoon news conference — his third in less than seven hours — Cuomo said a New Rochelle-based friend of the ill lawyer who was in close contact with him tested positive after being exposed. That man's wife and three of their four children were also infected.
Quick Tips to Help Keep You Safe
Still being tested: seven employees and an intern at Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, where the attorney spent time before he was moved to a Manhattan hospital for further treatment.
The Westchester man, identified Tuesday as a New Rochelle resident in his 50s who has previous respiratory issues, had not traveled to areas associated with the nexus of the novel coronavirus outbreak and was considered to be the state's first instance of person-to-person spread. He was still in intensive care as of Wednesday morning, but by early afternoon, Cuomo said that his condition had improved and he was now "stable."
The man first developed symptoms in late February. They intensified rapidly, leading to his hospitalization in the last week. The man works at Lewis and Garbuz P.C., a small law firm in midtown. At least seven contacts from his job are being evaluated for potential exposure, authorities said Tuesday. De Blasio said that the attorney's wife, who did test positive, also works at that law firm. Despite her positive test, she has been asymptomatic.
The Health Department says it has provided onsite guidance at the connected schools and workplaces and will be tracking close contacts of the family as it seeks to prevent further spread.
On Wednesday, New York Law School said it had been informed by a student the prior evening that the student had been in contact with the infected attorney. The student and their roommate are now in self-quarantine pending interviews and testing by the city's Health Department. All classes, exams and activities for Wednesday were canceled and the law school said it would close for the rest of the week. Click here for full details.
It was also found that a New York City public school teacher was under self-quarantine after showing symptoms of the virus. Mayor de Blasio didn't say what school the person works at, but did say the teacher will likely be tested on Thursday for the illness.
The state has set up a hotline with information and to answer questions on the coronavirus. The hotline can be reached at 1-888-364-3065.
The Westchester patient was first diagnosed at a hospital in the city on Monday, the first day the city was able to conduct such rapid testing locally, de Blasio said. Both he and Cuomo have warned that additional cases are "inevitable" as the nation and globe grapple to contain the outbreak that has killed thousands and infected more than 90,000 worldwide.
That said, the governor emphasized again Wednesday what he has said in previous news briefings — that 80 percent of people who contract coronavirus self-resolve and need no hospitalization. People at the greatest risk are the elderly, those with underlying issues and other groups — all demographics that would be at higher risk for almost any epidemic.
Meanwhile, the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker protection enacted a emergency measure to control prices on face masks in order to control gouging. Commissioner Lorelei Salas announced Wednesday that the department would be declaring the masks temporarily in short supply, so as to prevent stores from overcharging customers.
“Preying on people who are concerned for the health of themselves and their loved ones for a profit will not be tolerated in NYC," Salas said. "As we started to see empty shelves and more stores charging hundreds of dollars, we knew the City had to step in to prevent price gouging. I myself went to a store last weekend after hearing reports of overcharging and was charged $212 for a box of 10 masks — which is astronomical. This practice stops now."
The measure making the drastic price increase illegal goes into effect Thursday.
What to Know: Coronavirus Latest
Cuomo described the current situation Wednesday as a crisis, but said the anxiety pandemic is worse than the COVID-19 threat itself. He urged people to maintain perspective as new cases emerge and consider them in context.
"The anxiety here is outpacing the reality of the situation," the governor said. "Now in this daily mania, one new case, one positive, one negative: the more you test, the more positive cases you will find. We are creating this cycle of knowledge of more positives because we are testing for more positives."
There was at least some good news Wednesday. The husband of a 39-year-old Manhattan woman who tested positive for coronavirus after a trip to Iran has himself tested negative, against the expectations of officials. She and her husband have been isolated in their Manhattan home since she flew back to the country early last week.
Her symptoms have been described as mild, and authorities say she did not take mass transit while contagious. Both she and her husband are health care workers and acted accordingly to prevent additional spread, Cuomo previously said. Later, de Blasio said that the husband, despite testing negative for COVID-19, would still be treated like a positive case as far as quarantine and other measures in the event he may still develop symptoms.
Two Buffalo families who traveled to northern Italy and were under quarantine in their homes as they awaited the results of testing have also come back negative, authorities said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Cuomo said Wednesday that about 300 students and faculty from SUNY and CUNY schools studying abroad in high-risk countries would be recalled to New York and quarantined in dorms. In particular, more than 30 students from Long Island schools such as Stony Brook University, Farmingdale State Collgee and SUNY Old Westbury would be sent to stay in dorms at one of the campuses for two weeks. De Blasio later said the Department of Education had canceled all agency-sponsored international trips to China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan.
Other colleges have implemented other measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Marist College in Poughkeepsie instituted a "no guest policy" for all students, and directed students recalled from Italy to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine.
Two other Westchester County schools, Westchester Day School in Mamaroneck and Westchester Torah Academy in White Plains, announced on Tuesday that they would temporary close as a precaution due to possible exposure in the attorney case. On Wednesday, the Hastings-on-Hudson Union Free School District announced that their schools would be closed on both Thursday and Friday to sanitize the buildings after a student's parent was said to be at a location now closed due to a confirmed case of the coronavirus.
In addition, the Mount Vernon City School District also would be closing school for the rest of the week after two related students, one at Columbus School and one at Rebecca Turner Elementary School, had been quarantined with their family after possible exposure to the novel coronavirus, the district explained on its website. While neither student has showed symptoms, the district said the schools would be closed out of an abundance of caution. The students in quarantine would not be attending school for at least the next two weeks, the district said.
The Westchester family's synagogue, Young Israel of New Rochelle, was also ordered to halt all services for the immediate future. On Wednesday New Jersey officials asked anyone who attended religious events at the synagogue on Feb. 22 or Feb. 23 to self-quarantine until March 8.
How to Protect Yourself
New York City's Health Department released the following guidance for people who recently traveled to China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea -- or for anyone who experiences fever, cough or shortness of breath:
- Stay home — do not travel or go to work or school while sick
- Go to a health care provider and tell them about your travel history
- If you do not have a health care provider or insurance, call 311
- Avoid contact with others
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
Nationally, the CDC said that as of Wednesday it had a total of 80 cases reported by 13 states; only about a third of those have been confirmed to be related to travel. Eleven people have died, with most of them from Washington state and one in California.
The agency only updates its numbers publicly three times a week, though. The case total in the United States could be higher; NBC News reported it as being up to 159 cases nationwide as of Wednesday evening.
CDC officials warned for weeks to expect a disruptive spread of the virus in America. They say they have enough kits to test more than 75,000 people right now. Here's the latest on where stand as far as developing a vaccine.
In an effort to fight the spread of the illness, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill providing $7.8 billion in emergency coronavirus funding, including support for state and local health agencies. There will also be $490 million allocated to temporarily expand Medicare services to help ensure seniors can have access to treatment.