New York City

What to know about New York’s first confirmed coronavirus case

The governor says not to panic.

Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and New York health officials during a briefing on the Coronavirus in Manhattan on March 2nd.

Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and New York health officials during a briefing on the Coronavirus in Manhattan on March 2nd. Don Pollard/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

New York’s first coronavirus case was confirmed on Sunday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state health officials are urging people to be cautious – but not to panic.

The New York City woman who contracted the virus while travelling in Iran – the central location of the virus’ outbreak in the Middle East – is currently isolated in her Manhattan home. 

The woman, who is a health care worker, went to a hospital last week after returning from Iran and has remained at home since then. She also took special precautions and has not used any public transit system since returning to the city. “The patient has respiratory symptoms, but is not in serious condition and has been in a controlled situation since arriving to New York,” Cuomo said in a statement sent to The New York Times.

New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot told the Times that close contacts of the patient, who were exposed to the virus, have also been identified. “Our disease detectives have already identified close contacts of the patient, who may have been exposed, and will take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “Despite this development, New Yorkers remain at low risk for contracting COVID-19.”

On Monday morning, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo held a joint press conference to discuss the city’s first coronavirus case and what residents should know about the possibility of contracting the virus.

Cuomo said that the woman is not believed to have been contagious while flying from Iran to New York, though it is being assumed that her husband who travelled with her will also test positive for the virus. They are both currently isolated in their home. The governor also said that out of extreme caution the people who were on the same flight as the woman – as well as the car service driver who brought her home – will be contacted and followed up with.

The governor also explained that about 80% of people who contract the virus “self-resolve” and tend to have flu-like symptoms that eventually subside and that about 20% get seriously ill. He also stated that the mortality rate of the virus is about 1.4%, whereas the flu has a mortality rate of 0.6%. Senior citizens and people with pre-existing conditions are most at risk of falling ill from the virus but the state will be executing “special efforts” to protect those vulnerable communities.

The state’s big challenge is now testing as many people as possible, according to Cuomo. “You’re not going to eliminate the spread but you can limit the spread,” he said. “And testing is very important, and that’s why the CDC, the federal government’s now allowing us to test is a very big deal, and will make – have a dramatic effect on how quickly we can mobilize and respond.” 

Cuomo also said that he’s hoping the state will be able to test 1,000 people per day for the fast-spreading virus to prevent spreading. He also added that the state will be “moving a piece of emergency legislation on the state side that will authorize an additional $40 million for additional staff, additional equipment.”

The city is now able to test for the coronavirus, which means that results will be available within hours instead of days – but de Blasio said that any New Yorker experiencing symptoms should call any hospital or doctor ahead of their visit.

Barbot, who also attended the press conference, advised New Yorkers to continue to go about their daily lives as usual and to take normal precautions to prevent sickness such as covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and frequently washing your hands. “We want New Yorkers to go about their daily lives, ride the subway, take the bus, go see your neighbors,” she said. “The important thing, as both the Mayor and the Governor have said, we want New Yorkers to lean even more into frequent hand washing and covering their mouths and their noses.

The city health commissioner also stated that the virus is not believed to be contracted through casual contact but prolonged exposure and told city dwellers to seek out health care if they are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms. 

While the city is more than prepared for the virus’ spread, the rest of the state doesn’t have everything it needs to combat the virus yet, according to Cuomo. “I spoke to Vice President Pence, he's heading the President's task force,” Cuomo said. “They're going to be doing a supplemental appropriation. This is going to be expensive for the state, for the city, and we are – I understand the relationship to the federal government, I understand our responsibility, but this is a significant financial burden.”

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