During Coronavirus Briefing, Governor Confirms 31 Additional Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 173; New Cases Include 10 in Westchester County, 17 in NYC, 2 in Nassau County and 2 in Rockland County
Schools, Houses of Worship and Other Large Gathering Facilities to Be Temporarily Closed for Two-Week Period in Highest Impacted Area of New Rochelle from March 12-25
Deploys National Guard to State Health Department Command Post in New Rochelle to Assist with Cleaning and Other Community Support Efforts
Announces Partnership with Northwell Health to Set Up Satellite Testing Facility in New Rochelle
Governor Cuomo: "New Rochelle at this point is probably the largest cluster in the United States of these cases and it is a significant issue... The numbers have been going up, the numbers continue to go up, the numbers are going up unabated and we do need a special public health strategy for New Rochelle. What we are going to do is focus on an area concentric circle around the sites of the majority of the cases in New Rochelle. Much of the transmission tends to happen on a geographic basis. Kids go to school, kids go to a store, parents go to a store, parents walk down the block, shake hands with someone."
Cuomo: "Containment strategies focus on geographic areas. Commissioner Zucker has been working on this. This is the single greatest public health challenge we have in this state right now. And coming up with a special strategy to deal with this has been his focus. He has recommended a plan to me. I have accepted the plan which will deal with this containment area."
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today accepted the recommendation of State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker for new emergency measures to contain the novel coronavirus cluster in New Rochelle. The area currently has 108 confirmed cases and is considered a "cluster." The protocols include closing schools, houses of worship and other large gathering facilities within a one-mile radius in New Rochelle for a two-week period, from Thursday, March 12th to Wednesday, March 25th.
The Governor has deployed National Guard troops to a Health Department command post in New Rochelle to assist with the outbreak. The troops are mobilizing to deliver food to homes and help with cleaning public spaces in the containment area.
The Governor confirmed 31 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 173 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 173 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
Westchester: 108 (10 new)
New York City: 36 (17 new)
Nassau: 19 (2 new)
Rockland: 6 (2 new)
The Governor also announced the State will partner with Northwell Health to set up a satellite testing facility in New Rochelle. Visits would operate by appointment only. More information will be posted soon on the State Department of Health website.
AUDIO of today's update is available here.
PHOTOS of today's update will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript is available below:
Governor Cuomo: Good afternoon. It is the little things. Morning or afternoon. I think most of the people know the people that are here today. To my far right, Linda Lacewell, Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services and also on the emergency management task force that is handling this. The good Dr. Zucker. Melissa DeRosa, the Secretary to the Governor. Beth Garvey, who is the Special Counsel to me.
Let's give you an update on COVID-19. These are the new numbers. Westchester County is up 10. New York City is up 17. Nassau 2 and Rockland 2. As we said, keep in mind what we are doing here. These test cases are not representing a random sample. They are not statistically accurate to the growth or the spread of the disease because this is a selective sampling. We are primarily sampling people who are associated with people who test positive, right? People look at these numbers as almost a statistical represented sample of what is happening. That is not what this is. These are positive cases tested primary from a universe of people connected with someone who tested positive.
What they do show is a continuing problem in Westchester County. And it is not Westchester County, it is New Rochelle. New Rochelle at this point is probably the largest cluster in the United States of these cases and it is a significant issue for us that we will speak about in a moment. You can see even New Rochelle compared to New York City. That when you say Westchester you might as well say New Rochelle. So, New Rochelle is at 108. New York City is at 36. That is really breathtaking.
Again, putting things in focus. Washington State is at 179. New York at 173. You see how much higher the deaths are in Washington. That makes the point that we have been talking about. Who will be most likely affected by this situation. Washington State was in a senior home and that is what this is all about. What does it mean? What is the bottom line. Senior citizens, people who are in the vulnerable population. Senior citizens, underlying illness, compromised immune system, that is who we are trying to protect here.
And you see that in the 22 deaths in Washington compared to New York with no deaths. Same number of cases, look how higher Washington is because it's about the senior citizens. And our focus, governmentally, nursing homes, senior citizen congregate living. Our focus on an individual level, senior citizens, compromised immune systems. Again, what is the net effect of the disease? People talk about it like it's the Ebola virus, which was really a serious and frightening virus. We have 173 cases. Only 14 people are in the hospital. Well how can that be? Because people are at home, recovering from flu-like symptoms. Fourteen out of 173. If you look at the 14, most of the 14 are members of that vulnerable community. Again, you want to put this all in perspective: the single best way to put it all in perspective is the Johns Hopkins which has tallied all of the cases since China. One-hundred and fourteen thousand cases, that's China, that's South Korea, that's Italy, that's the United States. Four thousand deaths, again in the vulnerable population. Sixty-four thousand people recovered. Forty-six thousand cases still pending. People getting treatment or people at home. That's the entirety of the universe.
New Rochelle is a particular problem. It is what they call a cluster. The numbers have been going up, the numbers continue to go up, the numbers are going up unabated and we do need a special public health strategy for New Rochelle. What we are going to do is focus on an area concentric circle around the sites of the majority of the cases in New Rochelle. Much of the transmission tends to happen on a geographic basis. Kids go to school, kids go to a store, parents go to a store, parents walk down the block, shake hands with someone. Parent is walking the door, meets somebody, says hello has a conversation. Remember how this spreads. It can spread from - it's a respiratory illness, droplets of a sneeze, a cough, it's on somebody's hand - you shake hands. Now you have an issue.
So containment strategies focus on geographic areas. Commissioner Zucker has been working on this. This is the single greatest public health challenge we have in this state right now. And coming up with a special strategy to deal with this has been his focus. He has recommended a plan to me. I have accepted the plan. Which will deal with this containment area and the Commissioner will speak to it in a moment. One of the things we're doing is we're putting a satellite testing facility from Northwell into New Rochelle so they will set up a facility within that containment area that can be testing. Northwell received approval last night for their automated testing capacity which increases Northwell's capacity to test - we have been waiting for the CDC to do that. The CDC approved that. Northwell will open up a temporary satellite facility so they can do testing right in that area.
Even testing is a problem, right? Somebody gets in a cab to go to the hospital, now you possibly infect the cab driver, somebody gets in a bus, now the person is on a bus, so this is a major advantage. We're also going to use the National Guard in the containment area to deliver food to homes, to help with the cleaning of public spaces. There is a debate about how long the virus can live on hard surfaces, and you have differing opinions now. Some opinions are the virus can live on a hard surface such as stainless steel or plastic for two days or more. If that's the case, that would be a significant issue as to why it is transmitting the way it does. So cleaning those surfaces is very important with the right material and the National Guard will be helpful on that.
With that, let me turn it over to Dr. Zucker to talk about the strategy for New Rochelle.
Dr. Zucker: Thank you, Governor. So as we know this is an evolving situation and we are addressing many different points as we move forward on this. We have spoken before on the issues of containment and we had moved from a containment strategy into more of a mitigation strategy. When you're dealing with mitigation, you have to deal with the issues of social distancing and how people get gathered together and to try to minimize that. And one of the places where people gather together is particularly the school system and schools and other areas, events and daily or weekly activities. And we believe the most important thing from a public health standpoint is to minimize that. We know where sort of the center of the activity has occurred from the information Public Health and the epidemiology investigation from the beginning of the Westchester-New Rochelle outbreak, and we felt the radius of a mile from that spot would be effective in an effort to try to decrease the spread. I spoke to some of the public health experts the other day and this morning, all the time I should say, about this issue and we have to remember that we are sitting with the first point on a curve or first couple of points on a curve and it would be wonderful to be able to go in the future and look back and see how this curve is going to evolve, but we don't know that and so the most important thing to do is to take all the precautions we can and balance that from a level of protection with that of what could be somewhat disruptive and we understand some things will be disruptive. So we're moving forward with that and happy afterwards to discuss further.
Governor Cuomo: Okay. I want to thank Dr. Zucker for that. The Doctor's plan is March. The period would be from March 12 this Thursday, a two-week period where facilities within that area and schools within that area would be closed for two weeks. We'll go in, we'll clean the schools, and assess the situation. This will be a period of disruption for the local community. I understand that. Local shop owners don't like the disruption. Nobody does. Local politicians don't like the disruption. I get it. This can't be a political decision this is a public health decision. It's not a decision that I am making. I'm making, accepting the recommendation of Dr. Zucker. In a situation like this, whether you're president, mayor, governor, let the experts decide and let the science drive the decision. When you politically interfere in science, that's when you tend to make a mistake.
So again the period is March 12 through the 25. One mile is a fairly constrained area. It is dramatic action but it is the largest cluster in the country and this is literally a matter of life and death. That's not an overly rhetorical statement.
A couple of other facts: I've asked the Comptroller of New York, Tom DiNapoli to give me an opinion as to what consequences he might think this economic shutdown and the entire coronavirus situation will have on the State budget. As you know we're ready to do the State budget. The State budget anticipates this year's revenues and projects next year's revenues. You know what's going on in the stock market. You also have what's going on the economy overall. Right? Conventions are being stopped, tourism is down, hotel bookings are down, restaurants are down. So we just did the budget projection estimates. The world then changed since then so I asked him for any advice that he might have.
As I mentioned earlier there are different opinions on how long the virus can live on hard surfaces. So much of this is new and evolving. No one really knows for sure so you tend to get different opinions and the doctors talk to people all day long. I'm taking to people all day long. There is an emerging school of thought that says the virus can live longer on hard surfaces that originally anticipated, could live two days, maybe even a little bit more. I'm asking all the public transportation authorities in this state to redouble their cleaning efforts. It's easy enough to clean, it's a question of bleach or another clean that's approved by the EPA that kills viruses. But, if it is two days on a hard surface, a bus, et cetera, just picture people are walking around, that is a different situation. I want to make sure that the cleaning protocols are up to date.
Again, as a point of clarity, the state put out a regulation yesterday. Any school that has a child that tests positive must close immediately for 24 hours. That 24 hour period is only a period to allow assessment of the situation to determine what the remedial course is. It's not "it must close for a day and then it's going to open the next day." It must close, then you do an assessment, then you determine what to do with the school. That will be done on a school by school basis because the facts change.
One other point of clarification. You cannot joke, do not joke, whenever you joke you get in trouble. Hand sanitizer that we presented yesterday, the state is not making a profit from the sale of hand sanitizer. The hand sanitizer is not for sale. It is given to other jurisdictions. State use, prison use, bus use. Certain people have commented that it's for profit and tawdry that the state is profiting from the sale. We are not selling the product.