Health worker returned from Iran is NY's 1st coronavirus case

Gov. Cuomo speaks to reporters on Monday, March 2 after New York's first confirmed case of coronavirus. Gov. Cuomo speaks to reporters on Monday, March 2 after New York's first confirmed case of coronavirus. | Photo: WNYT.

Updated: March 02, 2020 03:22 PM
Created: March 02, 2020 10:04 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — New York leaders sought to calm jittery nerves Monday after the city recorded its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus, saying the disease — while dangerous — is a manageable threat.

The state is raising its testing capacity and telling people to expect the smell of bleach from cleaning in public areas, including subways, all while underscoring that the diagnosed woman's symptoms are so mild that she can recover at home, not in a hospital.


“In this situation, the facts defeat fear. Because the reality is reassuring. It is deep-breath time," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Speaking at a news conference with health officials and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the governor said the 39-year-old health care worker who tested positive wasn't believed to have been contagious when she returned from Tuesday from a trip to Iran, a new seat of the outbreak.

WEB EXTRA: Update on Coronavirus case

She took a private car from the airport to her home in Manhattan and secluded herself immediately. She also alerted medical staff at Mount Sinai Hospital, which arranged for her to be tested for the virus.

“Out of an abundance of caution, will be contacting the people who were on the flight and the driver of the car service,” Cuomo said.

The woman has respiratory symptoms, but they are mild. Her spouse, who is also a health care professional, is also being tested. Results aren't back yet, but Cuomo said officials are assuming he also has the virus and he has also been isolated at home.

De Blasio said he was confident New Yorkers would go about their regular lives, which he said was appropriate.

“New Yorkers do not scare easily. They do not intimidate easily,” he said, though he added that if people do develop suspicious symptoms, they shouldn't delay getting health care.

More than 80,000 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, have occurred worldwide since the virus emerged in China. About 3,000 people have died. The illness is characterized by fever and coughing and, in serious cases, shortness of breath or pneumonia.

New York's state lab began testing for the virus only over the weekend, but Cuomo said he has set a goal of being able to do 1,000 tests per day within a week.

Robust testing, he said, is a key to helping contain the disease.

“Our challenge now is to test as many people as you can. You are not going to eliminate the spread, but you can limit the spread,” he said.

With the new cleaning protocols for public transportation and schools, Cuomo said people shouldn't be alarmed if they smell bleach.

"It’s not bad cologne or perfume; it is bleach,” Cuomo said.

De Blasio said New York City would be deploying an “early detection system” that would let medical providers pool and share information about suspected cases and symptoms.

The city's health commissioner stressed that the best method of preventing the virus is to wash your hands thoroughly, and often.

Officials across the board, though, stressed that the risk to most New Yorkers remained relatively low. Cuomo said he was confident that if there is a sustained outbreak, the city's hospitals could handle it.

“We have the best health care system in the world. Excuse our arrogance in New Yorkers. We have the best health care system on the planet, right here in New York,” he said.

(Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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