New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking drastic steps to help contain the spread of COVID-19 out of New Rochelle, which has proven to be ground zero for the virus in New York state.
Cuomo said in a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, March 10 that there are now a total of 108 positive novel coronavirus cases in Westchester, all tracing back to the 50-year-old attorney who became the second New Yorker to contract the virus.
“We’re going to continue to see positive cases because they’re tested primarily from a universe of people who tested positive,” he said. “But what those numbers do show is a continuing problem in Westchester. And it’s not really Westchester, it’s New Rochelle.
“New Rochelle, at this point, is probably the largest cluster in the United States of these cases.”
Cuomo said that the numbers in New Rochelle continue going up “unabated,” which will require a special public health strategy for the city.
“This is the greatest public health challenge we have in the state right now, and coming up with a special strategy has been (New York State Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker’s) focus,” the governor added.
In response to the outbreak, Cuomo said that they will be focusing on the area surrounding the majority of cases in New Rochelle, which stem from Young Israel Synagogue, where the attorney attended a wedding and bar mitzvah.
Cuomo said that large gathering places such as schools or places of worship within the mile of the synagogue (see first image above) will be closed for two weeks to allow for sanitizing, cleaning and monitoring of the virus in the area.
The National Guard is also being called in to assist in cleaning efforts, and Northwell Labs will be setting up a facility within the containment area that will be able to do testing for coronavirus now that they received approval for automated testing.
“We’ve moved from a containment strategy to a mitigation strategy,” Zucker noted. “We believe the most important thing is to minimize the community spread. We know where the center of the virus occurred, and we felt a radius of a mile from that spot would be effective to try and decrease the spread.”
The New Rochelle High School, Albert Leonard Middle School, and Ward Elementary schools will all be closed through Wednesday, March 25.
“While students are home please remember not to congregate unnecessarily. Keep safe and have students work on educational materials provided to you,” New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Laura Feijoo said. “We believe students are safest in schools and are eager to reopen as soon as possible.
"It is inevitable that one of our students or staff will contract the virus. What is in our control is to be ready, calm, decisive, and responsive to any and all circumstances which may arise.”
Cuomo said that “this will be a period of disruption for the local community. Local shop owners don’t like the disruption. Local residents don’t like the disruption. No one likes this disruption.
“This is a unique situation in the United States. We haven’t seen this anywhere else. New Rochelle has more than double the cases than New York City. It’s a phenomenon,” Cuomo said. “It’s literally a matter of life or death.”
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