NEW YORK - New York City agencies are on "high vigilance" and ready to deal with an escalation in the novel coronavirus outbreak should it spread to the city, officials said on Wednesday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, and other city officials held a news conference a day after the CDC said that it expected COVID-19 to spread in the United States and become a global pandemic.
De Blasio said that he and his administration have been operating under that same assumption for several weeks.
He said that New York City has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far and he credits that in part to precautions put into place by the city, state and federal partners (such as at airports) in January.
"No one should take this lightly," the mayor said, adding that city agencies have been vigilant since "Day 1."
De Blasio and Dr. Barbot outlined several steps the city is taking to be ready.
- Departments are on high vigilance, high readiness
- Has 1,200 hospital beds can be made available immediately if needed
- Health officials have distributed 1.5 million surgical masks and are requesting help from the feds to get at least 300,000 more
- Doesn't recommend that most New Yorkers wear a mask
- Is asking the CDC to empower local labs, which have high-quality facilities, to help with testing
- Is urging CDC to expand its testing regimen for travelers to include any country that has seen a surge in cases and any country that has a U.S. State Department travel warning: Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand
"If you have symptoms that seem like a flu and there's any possibility of a nexus to travel to those counties or anyone who's been to those countries that's close to you in your life, get to a doctor immediately," de Blasio said.
Surgical masks are for healthcare settings. Health officials said that if you're symptomatic, then wear a mask to help prevent spreading your germs to others when you seek medical care. They noted that a surgical mask is not for your own protection if you have no symptoms.
New York City public school officials say they have current plans to close schools but they remain vigilant about the threats.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in the meantime, has asked state lawmakers to approve $40 million in funding to prepare for and respond to the virus. The $40 million would go toward hiring additional state health staffers and buying supplies including protective masks and gloves.
"Yes, we're preparing, but this situation is not a situation that should cause undue fear among people," Cuomo said.
With The Associated Press