New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has requested $40 million in emergency funding be approved by the state legislature for the state’s Department of Health for dealing with a potential coronavirus pandemic.
With federal health officials declaring it’s become a matter of “when, not if,” the virus will spread to the United States, Cuomo is taking steps to ensure that New York is ready to go to battle.
The $40 million appropriation will allow the Department of Health to hire additional staff, procure equipment and any other resources necessary to respond to the potential novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Governor will also propose legislation to grant authority to the Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to ensure local health departments and hospitals throughout the state take certain actions and measures in response to the outbreak.
The Department of Health will convene local health departments and hospitals statewide to review protocols, best practices, and procedures to help ensure they are prepared to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
"As we are seeing the novel coronavirus spread to new countries around the world, in New York we are continuing to take all necessary precautions to protect New Yorkers from this dangerous virus," Cuomo said. "While there are still no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in New York, these aggressive actions including $40 million in emergency funding will help ensure our healthcare system is equipped with the necessary staff, supplies, and equipment needed to respond to any emergency situation that may arise in the future."
Cuomo noted the Department of Health is working with the MTA, Port Authority and its airport operators, and the authorities' respective workforces to “ensure workers have the necessary training and access to supplies, including cleaning and protective equipment, they need to continue to operate mass transit systems and airports.”
“I have said before that it is highly probable that you will see a continuing spread of this virus. It is highly probable that we will have people in New York State that test positive. New York is the front door internationally. We have people coming here from across the world,” Cuomo said.
“We see how it is spreading and affecting different countries - Italy recently - and that will continue. Again, I think it is highly probable and no one should be surprised when we have positive cases in New York.”
As of Wednesday, Feb. 26, according to the World Health Organization, there have been 80,239 confirmed cases of coronavirus around the globe. Of those, 229 were reported in Italy (105 new cases) and 53 (18 new) have been reported in the United States.
Recently, as many as 700 recent travelers who returned to New York after traveling to areas affected by the coronavirus outbreak have entered into a voluntary quarantine, though none displayed symptoms.
Health officials in Westchester are monitoring 26 travelers, while Rockland reported two people are in quarantine. Nearly 100 residents on Long Island have also been isolated voluntarily.
According to health officials, there are seven types of coronaviruses. Most cause respiratory symptoms similar to the common cold, with mild to moderate illness, such as coronaviruses 229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1. These four types of coronavirus are quite common and not worrisome. Only SARS, MERS and novel coronavirus frequently cause severe illness.
There is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus, though health officials said that “everyday preventative actions can help stop the spread of the virus, including washing hands, avoiding contact with people who are sick and frequently cleaning or disinfecting objects and surfaces.
The WHO risk assessment remains “very high” in China, and “high” globally and regionally.
According to WHO, to help limit the spread of coronavirus:
- Limit human-to-human transmission including reducing secondary infections among close contacts and health care workers, preventing transmission amplification events, and preventing further international spread from China;
- Identify, isolate and care for patients early, including providing optimized care for infected patients;
- Identify and reduce transmission from the animal source;
- Address crucial unknowns regarding clinical severity, the extent of transmission and infection, treatment options, and accelerate the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines;
- Communicate critical risk and event information to all communities and counter misinformation;
- Minimize social and economic impact through multisectoral partnerships.
“With the best public health system in the world, New York City stands ready to respond to any confirmed cases of the coronavirus,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “I urge all New Yorkers to remain vigilant, and if you or anyone you know matches the criteria and have recently traveled to the affected areas of China, please see a medical professional.”
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