New York City

Coronavirus: More than 600 quarantined in Westchester County after possible contact with infected NYC attorney

March 3, 2020 Mary Frost
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Westchester County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler has ordered an Orthodox Jewish temple in New Rochelle to shut down immediately, and more than 600 congregants to quarantine themselves after possible contact with a man who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

These congregants and others may have been exposed to COVID-19 by a 50-year-old man who works as a lawyer in midtown Manhattan.

The man has an underlying respiratory condition and is in serious condition, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. He has been transferred to NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center on 168th Street in Manhattan, according to CBS. He was originally at a hospital in Bronxville, New York.

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Temple Young Israel in New Rochelle will halt all services “immediately and for the foreseeable future” due to potential COVID-19 exposure, according to a release by Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

Additionally, congregants of the temple who attended services on Feb. 22, as well as a funeral and a bat mitzvah at the temple on Feb. 23 have been ordered to self-quarantine until March 8 at the very earliest. Those who do not self-quarantine will be mandated to by the County Department of Health to do so.

State health officials say the attorney’s infection is the state’s first known case of “community spread,” as the man did not travel to any watch-list countries (though he did travel to Miami). New York City’s infection detectives are going through his possible connections to track other potentially infected people.

The man’s daughter attends the SAR Academy and High School in Riverdale, which has been temporarily closed. His son attends Yeshiva University in Manhattan. According to Patch, the patient has two other children who are in Israel.

There may be some more schools that voluntarily close, Cuomo said. “Until they determine exactly if there were children who might have exposed other children because you have to now track back all of these situations,” he said.

City agencies are working with the law firm, building operators and academic institutions to ensure employees are given appropriate guidance, according to the city Health Department. Anyone who has had close contact with these individuals should go to their health care provider or call 311.

The one other confirmed coronavirus case in New York City is a 39-year-old health care worker who caught the virus in Iran. She recently returned with her husband to their home in Manhattan, where they are currently in isolation. Her symptoms are mild. Being health care workers, they avoided mass transit and took a private car home. The driver of that car is being tested for coronavirus. Her husband is also being tested; his results are expected to come back positive as well.

According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, there are also two families in Buffalo who traveled to the section of Italy that has had an outbreak. Those two families are now being tested and they are isolated in their homes.

Cuomo reiterated on Tuesday that 80 percent of the people who catch coronavirus will “self-resolve” and have mild symptoms. The mortality rate is thought to be roughly 1.4 percent, according to CDC, which is about double the normal flu rate. The World Health Organization has said that the global mortality rate is 3.4 percent.

New York City opened its own coronavirus testing lab late Monday, where the most recent victim’s sample was tested. The Health Department will lower the threshold this week for people to get tested in order to detect person-to-person transmission.

There are now over 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and over 90,000 cases worldwide.

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  1. Carol Lipton

    What I’m concerned about is the fact that the lawyer who is sick and appears to be in extremis was commuting daily to and from New Rochelle on Metro North. That when he was in Grand Central Station, he could have frequented the news stand, kiosks, shops, the bathroom, shops or food court. Then there’s the elevator and lobby of 60 East 42nd Street, anything he touched while on Metro North, and the people who rode with him, as well as members of his law firm, the cleaning staff who clean his office at night, and delivery people.