Whether it was Swine Flu, H1N1, SARS or Ebola, American panic over these diseases were overblown in retrospect. But COVID-19, aka the coronavirus, has produced legitimate panic as local governments and medical professionals do their best to quash the fears of the public and be proactive in its approach.
Yeshiva University announced on Wednesday morning that a student tested positive for the coronavirus. As a precaution, Yeshiva officials announced that they’ll cancel all classes at Yeshiva’s Wilf Campus in Washington Heights for that day.
“We have unfortunately received news this morning that our student has tested positive for COVID-19. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family as well as to all those affected,” read Yeshiva’s statement. “This precautionary step will allow us to work with city agencies and other professionals to best prepare our campus and ensure the uncompromised safety of our students, faculty and staff.”
It’s the latest in a series of diagnoses that have the city on edge.
On Tuesday, authorities announced that they had identified a second case of the coronavirus in New York State, leading to the closure of two schools. According to New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo, authorities diagnosed a 50-year-old New Rochelle man––who works in Manhattan as a lawyer––with the virus on Monday night who subsequently checked himself into Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville. The man hadn’t traveled to China, Italy or Iran (the epicenters of the virus) recently. It was the first case not involving travel in the state.
Because a suspected case showed up in its community, officials at the Salanter Akiba Riverdale (SAR) Academy and SAR High School in the Bronx’s Riverdale neighborhood closed stating that it was following Department of Health guidelines. However, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that three family members of the resident in question tested positive for the coronavirus.
De Blasio said that he expects more cases to come, but wanted residents to know that the city is prepared.
“The patient remains hospitalized and is in serious condition,” stated de Blasio. “City and state disease detectives are working closely to identify close contacts and the appropriate next steps.”
New York’s first case of coronavirus emerged earlier in the week when a 39-year-old healthcare worker, who’d recently traveled to Iran, was diagnosed. The worker’s husband also traveled with her but hasn’t been diagnosed yet. While he’s expected to eventually contract the disease, neither party is seriously sick at the moment. The healthcare worker experienced respiratory symptoms on Saturday and went to Mount Sinai Hospital where she tested positive. She and her husband are currently being quarantined in their apartment.
“On Saturday, Feb. 29, the Mount Sinai Hospital Emergency Department evaluated a person who had recently traveled to Iran and had mild respiratory symptoms,” read Mount Sinai’s statement. “The appropriate isolation protocols were followed, and the case was reported to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). On Sunday, March 1, we were informed that the patient had tested presumptively positive for COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will perform confirmatory testing.”
“There is no cause for surprise––this was expected,” said Cuomo after news of the first suspected case in the state emerged. “As I said from the beginning, it was a matter of when not if there would be a positive case of novel coronavirus in New York.”
As of Monday, the coronavirus had infected more than 90,000 people across 73 countries and have caused over 3,000 deaths.
This week Cuomo signed into law a $40 million emergency management authorization for the state’s coronavirus response. This appropriation of funds allows the state to hire additional staff and obtain equipment and other resources needed to respond to the virus possibly spreading.
One of the biggest areas for the potential spreading of the disease is the city’s subway system. The people who work underneath the city’s streets are now tasked with the plan to disinfect subway stations several times a day to fight against the Coronavirus spreading.
While the AmNews’ attempts to contact TWU Local 100 officials were unanswered, the union took to Twitter to show how they’re keeping things clean in the subway.
“Starting tonight, transit workers begin disinfection of our stations,” read Local 100’s Twitter page accompanied by a video. “President Utano: Once again, TWU Local 100 members on the front line are taking action to keep riders safe and secure.”
“We’re on the case protecting our riders from HYPERLINK “https://twitter.com/hashtag/Coronavirusnyc?src=hashtag_click” #Coronavirusnyc because HYPERLINK “https://twitter.com/hashtag/wemove?src=hashtag_click” #wemove,” read another Local 100 tweet.
Another set of workers on the disease’s front lines want to be protected too.
National Nurses United (NNU) send a letter addressed to Mike Pence and other members of Pres. Donald Trump’s administration, urging them to be more responsive and responsible with coronavirus management.
“As the nation braces to confront the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that is quickly spreading across the world, National Nurses United, the largest union for registered nurses in the United States, has been closely monitoring the situation in our hospitals,” NNU Presidents (and Registered Nurses) Deborah Burger, Zenei Cortez, and Jean Ross in the letter. “It is critical that the federal government take quick and meaningful steps to urgently protect the public from this outbreak.”
In order to assure that nurses are protected while tending to the vulnerable, the NNU wants an improvement in screening criteria by the Centers for Disease Control and to make sure any eventual vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus be free.
But there are others out there who use a crisis to make as much money as possible.
Some people have attempted to cash in on the coronavirus panic by jacking up the prices on medical supplies, face masks and hand sanitizer. New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman wants to combat it through legislation. On Tuesday, Hoylman introduced a bill designed to crack down on retailers in places like the Upper West Side and Chinatown who are price gouging consumers who want to purchase any of the aforementioned products.
“It’s said that after the storm come the vultures––and that’s exactly what could happen here if we don’t act now to stop price gouging in anticipation of the coronavirus outbreak here in New York,” stated Hoylman. “Profiting off fear of disease is unconscionable. We can’t allow shady businesses to hike prices on the supplies New Yorkers need to stay safe and healthy, like hand sanitizer and face masks.”
Hoylman also noted that the U.S. Surgeon General said face masks won’t help people avoid coronavirus and the best bet is to regularly wash your hands and get the flu shot.
Hoylman’s legislation amends the state’s current price gouging statute to establish that an “unconscionable excessive price” is a price greater than 10% higher than before a public health emergency began and would prohibit retailers from selling consumer medical supplies during a public health crisis at those rates. If caught, the New York Attorney General would have the power to enforce a civil penalty of up to $25,000.
Cuomo wants to assure the people that percentages and probability are on their side when it comes to possible infection.
“There is no reason for undue anxiety––the general risk remains low in New York. We are diligently managing this situation and will continue to provide information as it becomes available.”
With local governments attempting to be prepared for the outbreak and the current presidential administration looking incompetent to some, it’s left organizations like NNU without confidence in the system. The letter sent to administration members echoed that sentiment.
“At the moment, we have a fragmented and broken public health infrastructure which is woefully unprepared for COVID-19,” read the letter.