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As Coronavirus spreads, Schumer urges Trump administration to declare a public health emergency

Five cases in U.S as of Monday, none reported in New York City.

January 27, 2020 Mary Frost
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Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on the Trump administration to officially declare a public health emergency so the Centers for Disease Control can obtain additional funds to prepare for the rapidly-spreading Coronavirus.

The Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund holds $85 million, which the CDC could use for airport screening, to trace cases of the virus or other urgent needs.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services, led by Secretary Alex Azar, must make the declaration before the fund can be unlocked.

“The CDC has been doing a tremendous job so far at being proactive and working around the clock to protect public health, but if we are going to make sure they can sustain this pace and remain at-the-ready should the outbreak get worse, they will need immediate access to critical federal funds that at the present time they remain unable to access,” Schumer said in a release on Sunday.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

As of Monday morning, there have been 2794 confirmed cases of the virus, with 81 deaths, according to New Scientist. The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China before spreading to 15 countries, can be contagious before symptoms appear — which can take up to two weeks, leading public health officials to expect many more cases.

There are five confirmed cases in the U.S., according to the CDC. All the infected people in the U.S. had traveled through China. The CDC expects more cases in the U.S. in the coming days and weeks, likely including person-to-person spread.

The Coronavirus family includes SARS, MERS and the common cold, and is zoonotic, meaning it jumps from animals (frequently bats) to humans.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday that “there is little doubt” that someone in New York City will soon become infected.

“It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” de Blasio told reporters at Emergency Management headquarters in Brooklyn. The mayor emphasized that there are as yet many unknowns. The situation is “emerging very quickly. We’re being very vigilant and taking an active stance,” he said.

Because New York City has the largest Chinese immigrant population in the United States, with many living in Brooklyn, the odds are great that Coronavirus will appear here.

There are more than 450,000 Asians in Brooklyn, according to Paul Mak, founder of the Brooklyn Chinese American Association. There are currently no known cases of Coronavirus in the Brooklyn Asian communities yet, he told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“For our agency’s part, daycare students as well as all staff returned from China must be quarantined for seven days,” he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that the state Health Department was testing samples from several individuals.

“While there have been no confirmed cases in New York State, as of today our Department of Health has sent samples for nine individuals to CDC for testing; four of these samples have proven negative and five results are still pending. These five individuals remain in isolation as their samples are tested at CDC,” Cuomo said.

First detected about a month ago in Wuhan, China, each person infected with the virus passes it to 2.6 other people on average, according to an analysis by Natsuko Imai at Imperial College in London.

Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, often leading to pneumonia. Frequent hand washing and covering your mouth while you cough or sneeze (into the crook of your arm or into tissues) are a first line of defense.

Shortages of facial masks have been reported in New York City.

Protocols have been put into place for people arriving at JFK from Wuhan. Someone showing symptoms with a travel history raising red flags will be transported to the nearest hospital, NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said. The closest hospitals to JFK are Jamaica, Long Island Jewish, Queens Presbyterian and SUNY Downstate.

To put the threat into perspective, influenza has killed 8,200 people in the United States since the flu season began in October.


Update: Article updated with a comment from Gov. Andrew Cuomo at 1:39 p.m.

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