Synagogue Stops Services, Congregants Asked To Self-Quarantine After Coronavirus Confirmed In Westchester

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Health officials have ordered a synagogue in Westchester County to stop services and some congregants are being asked to self-isolate over potential coronavirus exposure hours after New York confirmed its second case of the disease.

At a press conference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the man who tested positive for the virus is an attorney in his 50s from New Rochelle. Mayor Bill de Blasio later announced he works at Lewis and Garbuz, P.C., a law firm in Manhattan. According to the New York Times, the man also used Metro-North regularly to commute to and from work.

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De Blasio said the man first became ill on Feb. 22 and was admitted to Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville before he was ultimately transferred to NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, where he is in serious condition.

Westchester's health department has recruited nurses and detectives to retrace the man's steps, including where did he go and what did he do in Westchester County before going to the hospital. They will also investigate his family's movements. 

"To start interviewing every person that we can who might have information about how this person might have contracted this infection and how they might have spread it to," Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler said. 

Amler has directed that Young Israel of New Rochelle halt all services immediately and for the foreseeable future due to potential COVID-19 exposure connected to the man who tested positive. 

"Additionally, congregants of the Temple who attended services on February 22, and a funeral and a bat mitzvah at the temple on February 23 must self-quarantine until at the very earliest March 8," Amler said. "Those who do not self-quarantine will be mandated to by the County Department of Health to do so."

Cuomo said the man apparently had an underlying respiratory illness and no known travel history to China or other countries on the virus watch list, though he recently visited Miami.

He notes it appears to be a community spread case.

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“When you can't track it back directly to one place or one visit, I think that's what we're seeing today,” he said. “We have a case in Westchester, a 50-year-old gentleman, who did not travel to any of the places that are on the ‘watch list.’”

The man has two children, a son and a daughter. Both are isolated and being tested.

His daughter is a student at SAR Academy in the Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale. She is not showing any symptoms. 

De Blasio said his son is a student at Yeshiva University in Manhattan and does have symptoms.

The SAR Academy and High School has closed as a precaution and the school is urging students, parents and staff to remain calm.

A mother whose child attends the SAR Academy in Riverdale told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond that now, it hits home.

In Mamaroneck, Westchester Day School has also closed for the day out of "an abundance of caution," according to The New York Times.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer is urging residents not to panic. He says the best thing to do is stay informed and practice good hygiene. 

"I expect it to grow. I'm not a professional. Logic tells me that this will grow and we're going to have to be prepared to deal with a larger number of people that will both need to be quarantined," Latimer said.

He says if you suspect you have coronavirus, do not go to the emergency room. Instead, call your doctor first to avoid exposing others. 

The governor said more cases are expected as the outbreak spreads and testing ramps up.

Gov. Cuomo said two families in Buffalo who recently traveled to Italy are also being tested for the virus and have been isolated in their homes.

On Monday, Cuomo confirmed the first case of coronavirus in New York State. The patient is a 39-year-old woman who lives in Manhattan. She had contracted the virus while working in Iran and secluded herself immediately upon returning to New York City last Tuesday. Her husband, who joined her on the trip, is awaiting test results.

Cuomo also said that students at State Universities of New York who are currently studying abroad may be brought home.

The Democratic governor tried to calm the public by noting that 80% of those who get the virus will self-resolve and the mortality rate is 1.4% — about double the normal flu rate.

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Cuomo signed a bill approving a $40 million emergency aid package to help the health department hire additional staff and get more equipment to help track and fight the virus.

In Nassau County – where there are a few dozen people being monitored for the virus – lawmakers are also taking steps to address residents’ concerns. They will hold a public meeting to spell out the facts and misconceptions about coronavirus on Tuesday.

“In an effort to ease public anxiety and confirm that Nassau County has adequate staffing, resources, procedures and protocols in place to contain and prevent the potential spread of the corona virus. I call for a hearing of the health and other members of the Legislature,” said Legislator Rose Walker.

The meeting began at 10 a.m. at the County Building in Mineola.

“We don't our businesses to be hurt. We don't want travel to be hurt. People should go about their lives as much to normal as they can, as in every situation,” Walker said.

Currently, 67 people are being monitored in the county after traveling to China.

As of March 3, there is a total of 60 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States with a total of seven deaths.

Worldwide, there are over 90,000 cases of the virus and about 3,100 people have died from COVID-19.