A woman who arrived from a trip to China has been quarantined at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan on the suspicion that she has coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a hastily called press conference at the medical facility Saturday night.
The mayor and health officials caution that the blood sample was on its way to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, the only certified testing facility in the country. De Blasio called on the CDC to certify Bellevue to test for the virus to eliminate the inconvenience and the time in which it takes to test for the dangerous virus that originated in China.
The city’s first possible case of the potentially deadly virus is a patient about the age of 40 who arrived from mainland China two days ago, and went to Bellevue for treatment of a fever and cough. Bellevue doctors said that person, not identified, will remain in quarantined at Bellevue Hospital until at least Monday, when test results are expected from the CDC.
“If this is a positive case, we will confirm that publicly right away,” de Blasio said at the news conference in the hospital’s lobby. Some patients and visitors wore masks out of “an abundance of caution.”
Officials said the woman arrived at Bellevue Friday night after feeling ill with a fever, cough and shortness of breath — all of which are coronavirus symptoms, which are also common for other illnessess such as influenza. But the woman tested negative for the flu and the common cold.
Doctors said there may be other reasons why she became sick, but they’re taking no chances with coronavirus rapidly spread across the globe.
“There is still a lot that we do not know,” de Blasio said. “What we do know causes us a tremendous amount of concern. We will use all measures at our disposal to protect New Yorkers.”
Meanwhile, the mayor emphasized that anyone who is sick should seek medical attention, regardless of whether they can financially afford treatment.
“No one should hold themselves back because of the cost,” de Blasio said. “This is a public health emergency and nobody should hesitate to get care because they can’t afford it. If you need care, come to our facilities for help.”
Meanwhile, Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot reminded that coronavirus is “not airborne spread,” but can be spread through droplets of bodily fluids from infected persons.
“If someone coughs and sneezes and doesn’t cover mouths, they can transmit the virus,” Barbot said.
Barbot said they believe the woman had no extended family exposure or extended contact with anyone. When she arrived in the United States from China, she apparently exhibited no symptoms.
De Blasio said the virus could only be passed via “substantial contact” with someone who is infected and that New Yorkers should “go about our lives” normally.
“Just be smart,” the mayor said. “Do the basics, like wash your hands.”
One woman who was wearing a mask and didn’t want to be identified was listening to the mayor and said she was taking no chances.
“I’m just not taking any chances. I don’t want to get this virus – it kills people,” the woman said.
There have been eight confirmed cases in the United States to date, the most recent located in Massachusetts on Friday.
All told, more than 300 people have died of the Coronavirus, including most recently, a man in the Philippines.
Flights from China are being cancelled by most major airlines and the Chinese city’s affected by the virus are being quarantined by the government there.