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Cuomo: 11 New Yorkers Test Positive For New Coronavirus

Governor Andrew Cuomo (center) joined by New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker (left) and special counsel Beth Garvey (right)
Lucas Willard
Governor Andrew Cuomo (center) joined by New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker (left) and special counsel Beth Garvey (right)

Eleven New Yorkers have now tested positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that is spreading across the globe. Governor Andrew Cuomo updated members of the press throughout the day and said the number of cases will increase.

Governor Cuomo held three press briefings on the spread of coronavirus in New York Wednesday, providing updates on those who have tested positive for the disease.

A 39-year-old woman from New York City who recently tested positive for coronavirus after returning from Iran is reportedly recovering well. Her husband is negative for the virus, though New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday the husband's case is being treated as a positive.

At the first press conference at the state capitol, Governor Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker detailed five additional confirmed cases.

A 50-year-old attorney who lives in New Rochelle in Westchester County tested positive for the virus and remains hospitalized in stable condition.

His wife, who works with her husband at the same Manhattan law firm, 20-year-old son, and 14-year-old daughter also tested positive, as did their neighbor, who originally drove the man to the doctor. They are at home under quarantine.

Yeshiva University, where the son attends college, and the SAR school, where the daughter attends high school, are closed, along with the SAR elementary school, as well as the synagogue the family attends.

Testing of individuals and coworkers close to those who have tested positive is ongoing.

By Wednesday afternoon, five more cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 11.

The new cases were related to the Westchester County attorney: a friend, his wife, two of their threes ones, and their daughter tested positive. All are home in quarantine.

But in giving the information, the officials urged the public not to worry. Here's Governor Cuomo during his first press conference Wednesday morning: 

“We have an epidemic caused by coronavirus, but we have a pandemic that is caused by fear," said Cuomo.

Individuals tested for COVID-19 in Buffalo, Oneida and Suffolk Counties were negative.

The governor said 80 percent of people who contract the virus may not even show symptoms. He said it is the elderly and those with compromised immune systems who are most at risk.

"What we're worried about: nursing home setting, senior care setting. That's what we've seen in other places, and that's where the situation is most problematic. And if you look at what's even happening here in New York, it confirms that," said Cuomo.

As an additional precaution, Governor Cuomo announced that 300 SUNY and CUNY students and faculty traveling abroad in countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks — China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea — have been recalled and will fly home by chartered plane, to be quarantined in a dormitory setting.

Health Commissioner Zucker also addressed public worry:

"There are a lot of people out there who have a sniffle or a cough, and they think they have coronavirus. And it's really important to alleviate some of those worries, those fears. They may just have a cold, a regular cold. And there are criteria that have been put forth regarding the travel of those coming back to the United States. Individuals who are sick and are symptomatic should talk to their healthcare professional because they may have either an underlying reason for having that cough or that symptom." 

Directly following the first press conference, Cuomo and Zucker departed for Westchester County to meet with community leaders and determine next steps.

County Executive George Latimer repeated the governor's concerns about the spread of fear.

"We do ourselves injustice by letting speculation run faster than facts and professionalism," said Latimer.

Cuomo warned there will be more cases. 

"It will be dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens...at a minimum. So that's why... don't confuse the two concepts. We're investigating every case, but there are going to be dozens and dozens," said Cuomo.

Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo signed a $40 million emergency funding bill to support the state's response. Also Wednesday, lawmakers in Washington agreed on an $8.3 billion coronavirus response bill.

House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey spoke with reporters before a scheduled vote on the bill.

"Let's hope that this funding, along with the public listening to the advice of our public health leaders...the spread of this virus will be slow. But if not, if unfortunately it picks up speed, House Democrats are not going to hesitate to meet the public health threat," said Lowey.

Lowey is a Democrat from New York’s 17th district, just north of New Rochelle.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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