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2 New NYC Cases Mark Fresh Community Spread; Both Patients in ICU, Mayor Says

2 New NYC Cases Mark Fresh Community Spread; Both Patients in ICU, Mayor Says

What to Know

  • It remains to be seen how wide COVID-19 will spread in the tri-state area after 13 people in New York were confirmed to have the virus
  • Two new NYC cases were confirmed Thursday, both patients in intensive care; cases have no known connection to travel or other local COVID-19 cases, marking fresh instance of community spread
  • A New Jersey man in his 30s is a presumptive positive, sources say; he allegedly got it from one of the patients in New York

Two more people in New York City have tested positive for coronavirus and are hospitalized in an intensive care unit, bringing the state’s total to 13 cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on “Morning Joe” Thursday.

Neither case — a man in his 40s and a woman in her 80s — has a known connection to travel or any previously diagnosed local COVID-19 patients, marking what appears to be fresh community spread in New York City, de Blasio said. City disease detectives are tracing close contacts of both new patients and will ensure they are appropriately isolated and tested immediately.

We are going to see more cases like this as community transmission becomes more common. We want New Yorkers to be prepared and vigilant, not alarmed.


The developments come among an apparent surge of positive cases due to increased in-state and in-city testing — and while officials continue to tell people not to panic, that 80 percent of people who get it self-resolve, many are concerned about protecting themselves and their families.

LIVE AT 2 P.M.: Submit your newest questions now and join us for a Q&A with Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a pediatrician at Columbia University.

The Westchester attorney who had an underlying respiratory illness and was hospitalized in what was the state’s first case of person-to-person spread apparently passed it on to his neighbor and family, who passed it on to a friend’s family — and, possibly, others.

In New Jersey, where no positive cases have been officially confirmed, sources said late Wednesday there was a presumptive case linked to one of the cases in New York.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to officially confirm that the Fort Lee man in his 30s tested positive with COVID-19 but New Jersey health officials were treating him as such Wednesday. The news came the same day as nine other people in a New York City suburb were diagnosed with the illness — all of them connected to the attorney.

Sources tell NBC New York that the Bergen County man had contact with one of the New York patients; the New Jersey man was said to be resting comfortably at a hospital and doing well.

The sources didn’t identify the New York connection; thus far, the only reported case not linked to the attorney is the Manhattan health care worker who traveled to Iran, the state’s first confirmed case. Her husband tested negative but is still being quarantined as a precaution, officials said.

That first case came Sunday night. Two days later, news broke of the Westchester attorney — and the following 11 cases came in rapid succession, largely due in part to the state and city’s ability to test people quickly and disease detectives’ efforts to track contacts.

The attorney was considered to be the first “community spread” case, since he had no history of travel to affected outbreak areas.

The New Jersey State Department of Health has established a 24-hour coronavirus hotline to answer questions: 800-222-1222. New York has a similar hotline set up: 888-364-3065.

It’s still not clear how that man contracted the infection in the first place.

That case touched off a flurry of precautionary testing and more confirmed positives. The attorney’s 20-year-old son, 14-year-old daughter and wife, who works at his same law firm, all tested positive; the son was the only one to actually show symptoms. He attended Yeshiva University, which has been closed pending investigation since the news broke — and the son’s college roommate and a friend are currently being tested.

The daughter attended SAR Academy and High School in the Bronx. The family belonged to a synagogue. A New York Law School student reported prior contact with the attorney. The Health Department has been in touch with all connected facilities and communities and is providing continued guidance accordingly.

Other schools have been taking precautionary measures as well. The school district in Hastings-on-Hudson said it would close this week “out of an abundance of caution” because a parent had been in contact with a person under quarantine. Mount Vernon City School District said Wednesday that schools would close until Monday so cleaning crews can disinfect buildings.

In the city, De Blasio said public school trips to high risk-designated countries have been canceled. He said there has been no noticeable change in city public school attendance and released a thorough accounting of how key city agencies, including the Department of Education, are handling COVID-19 preparation and response.

Amid the calls for calm, there has been a rush for supplies. On Wednesday, the city declared face masks to be temporarily in short supply, triggering consumer protection rules that make it illegal for stores to price gouge.

De Blasio clarified Wednesday that there are only two reasons to wear masks: 1) If you have the virus, it will help reduce the spread. 2) If you’re a health care professional working with people who have the virus. Wearing masks “is not a general prophylactic for everyday people trying to ward off the disease,” the mayor said.

New York officials have said the woman who first tested positive did not use mass transit after flying back to the states from Iran early last week. They have not said that the other patients have been tied to mass transit, but the MTA has engaged in a robust prevention and cleaning plan. More here.

Taxi regulators are telling drivers and owners to clean their cars with disinfectant products at least once a day, paying special attention to surfaces that are touched often, such as door handles, armrests, and seat belts. Uber said it has similar protocols in place.

How to Protect Yourself

New York City’s Health Department released the following guidance for people who recently traveled to China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea — or for anyone who experiences fever, cough or shortness of breath:

  • Stay home — do not travel or go to work or school while sick
  • Go to a health care provider and tell them about your travel history
    • If you do not have a health care provider or insurance, call 311
  • Avoid contact with others
  •  Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands

Cuomo continues to reiterate his early calls to remain calm. As he has in recent days, the governor sought Wednesday to reassure the public that the disease is often passed by close contact, not casual contact like riding in the same subway car as a person who may be sick.

“We have an epidemic caused by coronavirus,” Cuomo said. “But we have a pandemic that is caused by fear.”

In other parts of the country, the death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 11 with a victim succumbing in California, the first reported fatality outside Washington state.

Nationally, the CDC said that as of Wednesday it had a total of 80 cases reported by 13 states; only about a third of those have been confirmed to be related to travel. Eleven people have died, with most of them from Washington state and one in California.

The agency only updates its numbers publicly three times a week, though. The case total in the United States could be higher. NBC News reported it as being up to 163 cases nationwide as of Thursday morning.

CDC officials warned for weeks to expect a disruptive spread of the virus in America. They say they have enough kits to test more than 75,000 people right now — and de Blasio said Thursday the city “urgently” needs the CDC to increase its supply of COVID-19 test kits. He also said the agency needs to expedite approval of any testing approaches currently being developed by private companies. Here’s where stand now as far as developing a vaccine.

De Blasio said Thursday that the city’s biggest challenge is not being able to test even more people: “Our single greatest challenge is the lack of fast federal action to increase testing capacity — without that, we cannot beat this epidemic back.”

The House of Representatives passed a roughly $8 billion emergency funding bill to fight coronavirus on Wednesday as part of national efforts to help combat the spread.

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