Coronavirus cases hit 142 in New York state, up 35% in one day

New York state’s coronavirus caseload rose Monday from 105 to 142, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Most cases are linked to a cluster in suburban Westchester County, north of New York City. But patients are spread from Long Island to the Capital Region, with at least 20 in New York City.

On Saturday, Gov. Cuomo declared a state of emergency to bolster the medical response to the outbreak. No one has died from the new virus in the state. Cuomo has stressed that most people who become infected will have mild symptoms. Some 6% of the patients are hospitalized, Cuomo said, adding that most of them have underlying medical problems. Some have needed intensive care.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday that the city's public health apparatus “is already planning on the assumption that we will be at hundreds of cases over the next two or three weeks.”

Across the state, approximately 4,000 people were under precautionary quarantine, Cuomo said. They include those that had returned from a country of concern but were not symptomatic, had proximate (not direct) exposure to a positive case, and others recommended by health officials.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has flu-like symptoms ranging from mild to severe, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC advises those who are mildly ill with the virus to stay home and avoid public areas to avoid spreading it.

“There's more fear, more anxiety than the facts would justify,” Cuomo said. “Most people have mild symptoms and don't get hospitalized.”

The disease is more dangerous for vulnerable people such as the elderly, those with compromised immune systems and those with other medical frailties, he said.

Worldwide, the virus has infected over 100,000 people in 90 countries and killed over 3,400 as of Friday. Health officials have sought to reassure the public that most cases of coronavirus are mild and that the overall threat is low, but are still aggressively working to track down the origins of any infections. 

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A new, statewide coronavirus testing protocol was also implemented Friday, added Cuomo. It involves priority testing outlined in five steps:

  1. A person who comes within close contact, defined as 6 feet, of a person known to be a positive case of coronavirus will get tested.
  2. A person who has been quarantined (mandatory or precautionary) and begins showing symptoms of coronavirus will get tested.
  3. A person who has traveled to a hot spot area and is showing symptoms associated with coronavirus will get tested 
  4. A person who is seriously ill, as determined by a doctor, and hasn't tested positive for any other virus will get tested.
  5. And any other case where the doctor consults with the local and state Departments of Health, and facts and circumstances merit it, the person will get tested.

Here’s a look at the latest developments:

Meanwhile, two New York residents who work at a hospital in Connecticut have also tested positive for the virus. On Sunday, Governor Ned Lamont confirmed Connecticut's first presumptive positive case of the virus involving a Connecticut resident, said to be 40 to 50 years old and being treated at Danbury Hospital. 

The Westchester outbreak has been traced to a synagogue in New Rochelle where the congregation was asked to self-quarantine earlier in the week after a person in the community was hospitalized with the illness. Since then, a growing number of friends and relatives of the patient, a 50-year-old lawyer who works in Manhattan, have tested positive.

Westchester synagogue closed; congregants self-quarantined

An attorney from Westchester County is hospitalized in Manhattan and being treated for COVID-19.

The hospitalized lawyer's wife put a statement on Facebook on Friday saying that when she first heard he had tested positive, she realized there would be “pandemonium all around us," so the family “shuttered the windows, turned off the internet and together stayed strong and in good spirits.” She said she immediately contacted everyone in the law firm and all have been working remotely ever since.

“Westchester is obviously a problem for us,” Cuomo said. "They talk about contagion in clusters, and then the clusters tend to infect more and more people."

As a precaution, nursing homes in that immediate area of the Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue will suspend outside visitors, the governor said.

The risk that the virus could quickly spread and cause fatalities among nursing home residents “is what I worry about,” the Democrat said. “That’s what keeps me up at night.”

  • STATE OF EMERGENCY

State officials say the state of emergency will clear the way for more testing by allowing qualified professionals other than doctors and nurses to conduct the tests.

More testing that could detect additional cases “is good news because we know who these people are and can put them in isolation,” the governor said.

The emergency will clear the way for purchases of more supplies and the hiring of workers to help monitor self-quarantined patients, Cuomo added.

“Somebody has to go knock on their door, once a day,” he said. “This is labor-intensive.”

It is also expected to provide a basis for investigating price-gouging. Cuomo cited one report of a retailer trying to charge $80 for a bottle of hand sanitizer.

“I want businesses to be aware that you can lose your license because of price gouging,” the governor said. “Not only is it disrespectful, it’s also illegal. And you will be caught.”

Cases of the new virus—and concerns about potential ones—have already prompted officials to ask thousands of people in recent weeks to quarantine themselves. There were scattered school closings in the region amid fears of a wider spread of the virus. Two elite private schools in Manhattan, the all-girls Spence and the all-boys Collegiate, closed Friday because a family associated with the schools was being monitored for the coronavirus.

And a Manhattan federal judge switched courtrooms Thursday after learning that a person dismissed from a pool of prospective jurors earlier this week was later told to self-quarantine. The person hasn't tested positive for the virus but had been at a house of worship on the same day as someone who did test positive, U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan said.

De Blasio has urged the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to supply New York with more test kits and to speed the approval of tests that private companies may be developing. He also announced a ban on international travel for schools and city employees in New York City. 

De Blasio also said the city will offer loans and grants to small businesses that suffer a decrease in sales or difficulty retaining employees due to the outbreak.

Taxi regulators are telling drivers and owners to clean their cars with disinfectant products at least once a day, paying special attention to surfaces that are touched often, such as door handles, armrests, and seat belts. Uber said it has similar protocols in place.

With the Associated Press