Yeshiva University and SAR Schools Will Be Closed Through This Friday
Governor Cuomo: "What we have decided just now to come up with a protocol going forward. Lawrence Hospital which is a hospital that the attorney first went to before being recommended to go to the city, the Lawrence Hospital has eight employees that are currently being tested. The SAR high school will be closed and people who had contact with the individual should be on what we call self-quarantine."
"The SAR elementary school will be closed through Friday and those individuals do not have to self-quarantine because it was less of a risk exposure. Yeshiva University will be closed through this Friday and we'll be gathering some additional information and doing some additional investigation."
"We're dealing with a Coronavirus epidemic. We have a bigger problem, which is a fear pandemic. And the anxiety here is outpacing the reality of the situation."
During a Coronavirus briefing earlier today in Westchester County, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo provided an update on the spread of Coronavirus in Westchester and outlined protocols to minimize the spread of positive cases in the area.
AUDIO of today's announcement is available here.
PHOTOS of today's announcement will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript is available below:
Okay, good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us. We just went and had a very good meeting with many of the interests and individuals who are involved in this current situation that we are dealing with. And I want to thank the County Executive for his great work and his partnership in this.
I will give you a brief overview of what we discussed then I will turn it over to the County Executive for comments and we will take your questions.
We have good news and bad news in the State today. We have done a number of Coronavirus tests and the good news was the tests that came from Buffalo came back negative. The tests that came from Oneida County came back negative. The tests that came from Suffolk County came back negative. The husband of the healthcare worker who came back from Iran actually came back negative. So, that was surprising to me
The less than good news is that we know we have a Westchester resident, a fifty year old attorney who lives in Westchester and practices law in Manhattan, who had tested positive. It also turns out that his wife has tested positive. His son has tested positive and the daughter and the neighbor have tested positive. The neighbor drove the attorney to the doctor's office. So they were in a car, it was an enclosed place and that is probably where the infection began.
Once you have a situation like this. Then the investigation starts because you are trying to find as many people as you can who might have come in contact to try to limit the exposure and contain the exposure. It is an imperfect science especially in a situation like this one where you have a person who may have contacted so many people. So, you do the best you can. Again, trying to contain, trying to contain. Let's start with the 50-year-old attorney working at a law firm in Manhattan. We're testing a number of people in that law firm. Some of the test are pending but nobody has come back positive yet. The son is 20 years old, is an undergraduate at Yeshiva University and we discussed that matter at great length and I'll discuss that in a moment. The daughter is 14 years old and attends the SAR school and we discussed that matter. The neighbor's children are being tested as we speak to see if the neighbor gave it to his children.
What we have decided just now to come up with a protocol going forward. Lawrence Hospital which is a hospital that the attorney first went to before being recommended to go to the city, the Lawrence Hospital has eight employees that are currently being tested. The SAR high school will be closed and people who had contact with the individual should be on what we call self-quarantine. Self-quarantine is basically stay in your home, limit the exposure to the number of people that you might come in contact with and do that through Friday, this Friday. If any symptoms develop then those individuals should contact a health care professional.
The synagogue will be closed through March 8 and those individuals should also be on self-quarantine depending on whether or not something develops that might be revisited but that is the position now. The SAR elementary school will be closed through Friday and those individuals do not have to self-quarantine because it was less of a risk exposure. Yeshiva University will be closed through this Friday and we'll be gathering some additional information and doing some additional investigation. And then we'll make a decision on Friday about Yeshiva University.
So, we feel comfortable that that is an intelligent plan going forward. It tries to minimize the imposition on people while protecting public health, and I think that is an intelligent resolution. And again we will revisit this as we get more information because we're doing testing all the time. If a test comes back positive we might modify the plan, if a test comes back negative you might modify a plan.
A little context that we really didn't get a chance to speak to upstairs but that I think is important - we're dealing with a Coronavirus epidemic. We have a bigger problem, which is a fear pandemic. And the anxiety here is outpacing the reality of the situation. Now, why do people get frightening in general? People get frightened when one of two things happen. Either I'm not receiving information or I don't trust the information I'm receiving, or the information is very frightening. In this case, the information is not very frightening, the facts are not very frightening. This is a virus that spreads much like the flu virus. Roughly 80 percent of the people who get the Coronavirus will self-resolve, meaning they'll have it, they'll be walking around with it, they may have some symptoms, but they will self-resolve. Twenty percent may have a medical issue where they have to stay at home, where they may have to be hospitalized. And the people at greatest risk are senior citizens, people with compromised immune systems or people with an underlying illness. That is our focus.
This situation in a nursing home is highly problematic. This situation in a senior citizens' center is highly problematic, and if you look at what we've dealt with in New York, it bears it out. The 39-year-old healthcare worker who came from Iran and tested positive - she never went to a hospital. She's been at home. She's had mild symptoms and she's getting better. Her husband never even tested positive, and he's getting better. The son and the daughter of the family we're speaking about today - they're at home. None of these people are hospitalized, save one, which is the 50-year-old attorney who had an underlying respiratory illness, and this is a respiratory disease. Which makes the point that the target group, the vulnerable group. Seniors, immune-compromised, underlying illness, especially an underlying respiratory illness. And even that individual who was hospitalized is in stable condition.
So those are the facts of the situation - we're now in this daily mania. One case, new case, positive, negative. The more you test, the more positive cases you will find. So we are creating - we are in a cycle - we are actually creating knowledge of more positives because we are testing for more positives. If you went out today and tested for the normal flu - you would find thousands of people positive with the flu. We have 15,000 people in the hospital today with the flu. So, perspective and context here is very, very important. Why are we working so hard to contain it? Because it is a dangerous situation, and if you are in that vulnerable situation that vulnerable category, it is problematic, and that's why we're doing everything we can. But again, context, perspective - I know we're all New Yorkers, and I know we tend to get anxious, and I also know that people have received mixed messages on this, and I think that's part of the problem. Federal government says one thing, then you have this political debate. This one says it's underestimated, this one says it's overestimated. I think that has caused an uncertainty where people don't know what to believe. Just the facts ma'am, as they used to say. Just give me the facts. Let me understand what I'm dealing with and make an intelligent decision, and that's what we're trying to do.
I thank very much our colleagues who are here today. Anyone who does believe they're in close contact, is symptomatic, they should go to a healthcare professional. The county is going to notify the healthcare professionals that if they forward that person for testing what facilities can do that testing, what hospital facilities can do that testing. And the healthcare professional has to contact those facilities prior to referring the person because the healthcare facility also has to take certain precautions so that when the person comes in for the testing, they're not inadvertently exposing other people if, in fact, they do wind up testing positive.
The county government has done a great job coordinating all of this. This is one of the more complicated situations that we've come across because of the number of interconnections that this family has presented. And the county has done just a great job, no surprise, because George Latimer is one of the really great ones. He's been a colleague of mine for a long time. He abandoned me in Albany, he used to be in Albany. He fled Albany. I'm a little jealous. But he's doing a fantastic job. I'm glad he's here. County Executive George Latimer.