Gov. Andrew Cuomo discussed the state's plans for dealing with the anticipated spread of the novel coronavirus while confirming Friday that four New Yorkers were under isolation as their cases were tested by U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Cuomo, who noted that one of the four New Yorkers who were tested for the virus was proven negative, said the state is taking a series of actions aimed at raising awareness and preparation. He called for increased vigilance across the state while assessing New York's risk for the virus as currently low.
Cuomo's comments about the state's plans to deal with the anticipated spread of the virus followed confirmation this week of two cases in the United States - the first in Seattle and the second in Chicago.
"As we learn about the first confirmed cases of this novel coronavirus in the United States and potentially in New York, I want to assure New Yorkers that we are prepared," Cuomo said. "We are undertaking a wide-reaching and rigorous effort with all stakeholders, including healthcare providers, airports and federal health officials, to put in place the appropriate precautions to keep New Yorkers safe. The symptoms of this virus are very similar to a common cold - if you are concerned that you might be ill, please follow our guidance to protect yourself and others."
Cuomo's office noted that last week the Department of Health issued guidance to healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, clinical laboratories and local health departments to provide updated information about the outbreak, and ensure the proper protocols are in place if a patient is experiencing symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus, had a travel history to Wuhan, China, or had come in contact with an individual who was under investigation for this novel coronavirus.
Additionally, Cuomo's office said the health department has hosted a series of informational webinars for hospitals and local healthcare providers. On Friday, the department hosted a webinar for medical professionals at colleges and universities - many of which host international students - to disseminate information about the virus, infection control recommendations and the current criteria for testing.
Last week's health guidance coincided with the start of a CDC-led airport entry screening program at John F. Kennedy International Airport for passengers arriving from Wuhan, China. Chinese officials have since closed transport in and out of Wuhan and other cities in the province, including their international airports. Cuomo's office said DOH, Port Authority and the New York City Health Department will continue to work collaboratively with CDC as their travel screening process evolves. To date, no passenger has required further evaluation as a result of the CDC-led passenger program at JFK. To raise further awareness for all international travel, Cuomo has directed the Port Authority to post informational signs at all four Port Authority international airports.
"This virus is being carefully monitored at federal, state and city levels to ensure the public's health and safety, and while awareness is important, the current risk to New Yorkers is low," said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "People who have traveled abroad recently and have symptoms that mimic the flu should see their doctor. We are working closely with the Centers for Disease Control to receive daily updates and stand ready to assist."
Symptoms of the novel coronavirus may include: runny nose; headache; cough; sore throat, fever and a general feeling of being unwell.
While there is currently no vaccine for this novel coronavirus, officials say everyday preventative actions can help stop the spread of this and other respiratory viruses. They recommend:
• Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
• avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands;
• avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
• staying home when you are sick;
• covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and
• cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Individuals who are experiencing symptoms and may have traveled to areas of concern, or have been in contact with somebody who has traveled to these areas, should call ahead to their healthcare provider before presenting for treatment, officials say.