UPDATED STORY: Thursday, March 5 at 1:30 p.m.: According to published reports, a 42-year-old man is the first person to test positive for Coronavirus on Long Island.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
ORIGINAL STORY: Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said county officials are “working around the clock” to deal with the coronavirus should the disease spread to Long Island at a press conference held at the Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC) earlier today.
The executive counselled caution on the individual level, but also advised against panic, saying there is currently no need for people to alter their day-to-day routine.
“At this point, there is no reason to change your habits,” Curran said. “You can continue going to work, continue going to school. Please go to restaurants. I know there was reluctance for people to go to Chinese restaurants, there is absolutely no danger. Continue doing what you’re doing but please take care of yourself.”
As for what individuals can do to limit their risk of catching coronavirus disease (COVID-19), since the virus is transmitted most commonly by people touching their face, Curran offered timeless advice.
“Wash your hands, sanitize your hands” Curran said. “We touch our faces more than we realize. There’s controversy as to whether the masks work but one thing they do is stop people from touching their face.”
Curran also cautioned people who feel sick or have to play it safe, stay home and call their doctor.
The county is actively coordinating its response to the virus with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as state and local officials. Every county department has been asked to update its emergency response plans in the event of a widespread outbreak.
The executive was joined by Nassau County Department of Health Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Ann DeSimone, Office of Emergency Management Director Steve Morelli and several NUMC officials, including NuHealth Chairman Robert Detor and Infectious Disease Specialist Janice Verley.
There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nassau County. The health department said only one person in the county is under investigation. To date, the department has completed testing of 147 travellers, and is working on testing 62 more.
NUMC has 60 beds available at the moment to take on patients infected with coronavirus, and the hospital is coordinating its response plans with other health providers in the region. Verley said NUMC will triage potential coronavirus patients as they come in, and isolate them from the general population as the need arises.
“Our preparations are focused on areas of rapidly identifying persons who could potentially have coronavirus and isolating patients,” Verley said. “We have signage posted throughout the hospital, we are using staff to monitor areas where patients would be waiting to try and identify patients who may have symptoms. For any patients who self-identify or we observe, we are providing masks and I think this is key.”
Although NuHealth, the public benefit corporation that runs NUMC, had its finances placed under control of the Nassau Interim Financial Authority in February, Detor said the hospital’s response to the virus will not be affected by its monetary issues.
“In the case of a public health emergency we do what we have to do and then worry about that later,” Detor said.
As of Wednesday, there are six confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York. Nationwide, the virus has infected at least 138 people and killed at least 11 (10 in Washington State and one in California) according to the CDC.
For more developing information about the spread of coronavirus, visit these official sources:
- Nassau County Health Department – www.nassaucountyny.gov/1652/Health-Department
- New York State – www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/
- New York City – www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/coronavirus.page
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
- World Health Organization (WHO) – www.who.int/westernpacific/emergencies/novel-coronavirus