A New York City resident who recently traveled to Italy is being tested for the new fast-spreading coronavirus, as officials on Long Island and Westchester County deal with clusters of patients being monitored for the illness.
The city still hasn’t seen a confirmed case of the potentially deadly virus, but officials here fear a positive case is inevitable, even as they warn against panic in the face of a global health crisis.
The city Health Department tweeted the announcement Thursday, noting “the person reported symptoms and recent travel to Italy.” The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will test the patient for the virus.
So far, six city residents, including the latest case, and one non-resident visiting here have been tested for coronavirus. All have come back negative.
Nassau County health officials told reporters Wednesday they’re monitoring 83 people who remain isolated in their homes. On Thursday, the county announced it has tested six people so far, and all have come back negative. Suffolk County is monitoring 29 cases.
In Westchester, eight travelers returning home from places were an outbreak was reported are under a “voluntary quarantine in their homes,” county officials said.
The global count of those sickened by the virus hovered around 82,000 on Thursday, with 433 new cases reported in China and another 505 in South Korea, the Associated Press reported.
Fifteen cases have been confirmed so far in the United States.
The new virus is a member of the coronavirus family that can cause colds or more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS. The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.
Officials are advising people to take steps to avoid infection with coronavirus or other respiratory infections like colds or the flu, including washing hands with soap and water and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
In New York City, the FDNY has established a protocol for handling a suspected case.
First responders don protective equipment if they suspect the disease, and send word to other participating agencies as they take the patient to the hospital. Paramedics have been instructed to ask suspected patients if they have recently traveled to China or have had contact with anyone who has, officials said.
Earlier this week, Mayor de Blasio asked the federal government to increase surveillance of travelers, help the city acquire more face masks and let the city Health Department test suspected cases itself. After the CDC sent faulty test kits to some states, only a dozen state and local health departments have been able to conduct tests themselves.
“I am frustrated like I know many of you are that we have had issues with our test,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Wednesday. “I want to assure you that we are working to modify the kit and hope to send out a new version to state and local jurisdictions soon.”
Health experts on Thursday blasted the federal government’s preparedness, zeroing in on a four-day delay to screen a California woman with the virus, the first case of unknown origin “who reportedly did not have relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient with COVID-19,” the CDC announced.
Following the California case, the CDC on Thursday expanded the criteria for who should get tested, and updated its website to reflect those changes.
Fear of the virus helped blow nearly 1,200 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Thursday — the worst one-day drop in U.S. stocks since 2011. This week’s stock losses wiped out a year’s worth of gain, even as President Trump has tried to downplay fears about the virus and blamed the media for raising alarm.
On Wednesday, Trump tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead the country’s response to the virus, though the former governor of Indiana has no medical expertise.
“I gave a press conference yesterday that was really a very good press conference, and some people thought it was great…. Basically, it was a calming press conference," Trump told reporters Thursday.
“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear, and from our shores, you know, it could get worse before it gets better,” Trump said. “It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows. The fact is the greatest experts, I’ve spoken to them all, nobody really knows.”
With Anna Sanders