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News

1,000 Who May Have Been Exposed To Coronavirus Are Quarantining In Westchester

A video of the news conference.
A video of the news conference. Video Credit: NYGovCuomo

About  1,000 people in Westchester County who may have been exposed to the coronavirus are being quarantined or self-quarantined to combat the rapid spread of coronavirus after a 50-year-old attorney from New Rochelle was hospitalized with the virus.

The quarantines are scheduled to last 14 days, and health department officials are monitoring those involved to make sure they are observing the quarantine.

At a press briefing in White Plains on Wednesday afternoon, March 4, New York Gov. Cuomo, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and county health officials spoke about the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Earlier in the day, three members of the attorney's family and a neighbor who drove the man to a hospital in Westchester were all confirmed as testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the state to six -- with all in the New York City area.

Cuomo said that the New Rochelle man, who was the second confirmed coronavirus case in New York, is now in stable condition and improving, though he remains hospitalized at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

His children, wife and the neighbor who drove him to NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville have all been quarantined.

He is also the only New Yorker currently hospitalized for the COVID-19 virus.

“Once you have a situation like this, then the investigation starts, because you’re trying to find as many people as you can who might have come into contact,” Cuomo said. You have to try to limit the exposures and contain them. It’s an imperfect science, but you do the best you can to contain everything.”

Cuomo noted that colleagues at the attorney’s midtown law firm are being tested, with no positive tests thus far and several pending.

Employees at Lawrence Hospital, where the man was first transported, are also being tested. His neighbor’s family is also being tested for COVID-19.

The Salanter Akiba Riverdale (SAR) Academy school and high school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx where the New Rochelle man's 14-year-old daughter is a student will be closed until after Purim ends on Tuesday night, March 10, and Cuomo said anyone who came into contact with her should self-quarantine through Friday, March 6.

Members of the Temple Young Israel in New Rochelle, where the attorney attended a funeral on Saturday, Feb. 22 and a bat mitzvah at the temple the following day must also self-quarantine, Latimer noted. County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler also ordered the synagogue to immediately halt services “for the foreseeable future.”

Yeshiva University, where the attorney’s 20-year-old son is a student and stayed in a dormitory on campus, will be closed through Frida, March 6 and conducting an investigation of their own. Cuomo said that the state and university will a further determination then.

“We feel comfortable that this is an intelligent plan going forward,” he added. “It tries to minimize the imposition on people while protecting public health. I think that is an intelligent resolution and we will re-visit it as we get more information.

Latimer noted that Westchester residents seeking general information about coronavirus can call the 2-1-1 number with questions. A specific hotline is also being set up for those under self-quarantine at 866-588-0195.

Cuomo likened the coronavirus to a “flu on steroids,” adding “we’re dealing with a coronavirus epidemic, but we have a bigger problem with fear.”

“Why do people get frightened in general? People get frightened when either they’re not receiving enough information, or they don’t trust the information being provided.

“The facts of the case are not very frightening. The virus spreads like the flu virus. Roughly 80 percent of people will self-resolve.”

Cuomo and Latimer both echoed each others’ words in reiterating that the spread of fear may be more concerning that the spread of coronavirus.

“We are at a certain level of alert and activism that we’re comfortable with. That level may rise, and if it does, we will respond,” Latimer said. “It is premature to jump to the highest level of alarm and concern.

“It may be a natural tendency for us to move to the highest level of concern, but we’re comfortable with where we’re at today. We’re going to do well to do some detective work. If information changes on the ground, those of us here will have to adjust and increase their strategies.”

This continues to be a developing story. Check back to Daily Voice for updates.

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