New York City

City could face a $1 million a day coronavirus bill

February 10, 2020 Mary Frost
coronavirus NYC
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New York City could be faced with expenses of roughly a million dollars a day should it be hit with an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Sen. Chuck Schumer said late Sunday.

That’s how much it could cost the city to pay for the Department of Health’s prevention and surveillance activities, doctors, nurses, security and overtime, along with diagnostic and lab testing, equipment, supplies and gear.

Money would also be needed to pay for additional security assistance from the NYPD, Schumer said in a release.

The senator is demanding that the feds commit now to reimbursing the funds. The city has spent more than a million dollars so far on coronavirus (2019-nCoV) preparation, an amount that could be multiplied many times over if the disease takes hold here. New York City is mandated by the federal government to take the reins in preparing for an outbreak, Schumer said.

“If the need develops, [New York City could] be looking at a one-million-dollar-a-day tab. The city needs public assurance from the federal government that it will be reimbursed for this mandated work,” he said.

Test results came back negative for two people who were tested for suspected coronavirus at Flushing hospitals last Thursday, two days after the city’s Health Department first started monitoring them. The city is awaiting the outcome of one more test.

Schumer said the situation was similar to HHS’s reimbursement of $32 million to New York State during the Ebola crisis.

“We were able to tackle Ebola aggressively because we were also able to guarantee that expenses would be reimbursed, and I fought hard for that, but right now we need the same kind of federal support to appropriately tackle the coronavirus,” Schumer said.

The city’s Health Department says it is almost inevitable that the virus will show up here, given the city’s large Chinese population and its role as a central hub. Brooklyn’s Sunset Park and Bensonhurst have the highest number of Chinese residents in the city. Queens also has a large Asian population.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during an interview with Alan Chartock on WAMC Northeast Public Radio on Monday, “It’s almost inevitable but that we will [experience an outbreak]. Places around the country have, and as long as you’re prepared to handle it, it’s fine.”

For travelers coming into the city suspected of having the virus, “Quarantine facilities would likely be set up at Jamaica Hospital and Bellevue Hospital, if travelers come in through JFK, one of the designated airports,” Cuomo said.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey and Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn have both been designated as emergency camps to quarantine potential patients in the event an outbreak occurs in the U.S.

As of February 10, there have been at least 900 deaths from the coronavirus, almost all in China, according to the World Health Organization. More than 40,000 people worldwide have been infected.

The novel coronavirus is a strain that has not been previously detected in humans. Scientists suspect that the virus can spread even while a person has no symptoms, which include fever, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea and sometimes pneumonia.

Washing hands with soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the number one way to ward off infection, health experts say. People should also avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands, cover their mouths with their elbow while coughing or sneezing, avoid contact with sick people who have recently returned from China and stay away from wild game, which can carry the virus.

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

New York City medical labs will soon be able to run their own diagnostic tests for the novel coronavirus, the CDC said.

Schumer was behind the successful push to have the coronavirus declared a public health emergency, freeing up funds to be used to combat the virus.

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