New Rochelle becomes hot zone of New York’s battle with coronavirus

New Rochelle
New Rochelle, New York. (Photo via Getty Images)

“Large gathering facilities” located within a one-mile radius in New Rochelle will be shut down for a two-week period in the state’s efforts to combat the coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

The effort’s being undertaken in an effort to slow the spread of the illness in the Westchester County city, which Cuomo described in a press conference as being the “most significant cluster” of COVID-19 cases in the United States. 

New Rochelle has the vast majority of Westchester County’s reported 106 coronavirus patients as of Tuesday morning; by contrast, there are just 36 confirmed coronavirus cases in all of New York City.

Looking to stop the proliferation of COVID-19 in New Rochelle, Cuomo said the state would enact a two-week action plan in the one-mile area of the coronavirus hot zone. Schools, churches, temples and other facilities where large numbers of people gather will be closed from March 12-25. 

The New York State National Guard will be brought in to clean public areas and deliver food to residents in the one-mile radius. The closed schools there will also be thoroughly cleaned, Cuomo said. 

Northwell Labs, which received FDA approval Sunday to conduct coronavirus testing, will set up a satellite location in New Rochelle to conduct tests locally — and save possible coronavirus patients the necessity of traveling far and putting others at risk, the governor added.

“We’re going to focus on an area concentric circle around the site of the majority of cases there,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “Much of the transmission tends to happen on a geographic basis.”

The plan came at the recommendation of State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. 

“We believe the most important thing, from a public health standpoint, is to minimize congregation,” Zucker said. “We have to remember that we are sitting with the first couple of points on a curve. The most important thing we can do is take all the precautions we can.”

Cuomo stressed that the decision to seal off large facilities in the New Rochelle hot zone was not an easy one to make — but one necessary to protect as many people as possible.

“Nobody likes the disruption, but this is not a political position. This is a public health decision,” he added. “It is a dramatic action, but [New Rochelle] is the largest cluster in the country. It’s a matter of life and death; that is not a rhetorical statement.”

Overnight, Cuomo reported, there were 29 new coronavirus cases in New York State, including 10 in Westchester County. Seventeen new cases surfaced in New York City, while there were two new cases each in Nassau and Rockland Counties.

Of New York state’s 173 coronavirus cases, Cuomo noted, just 14 patients are hospitalized. These patients, he stressed, are part of the “vulnerable population” most at risk of suffering serious symptoms from coronavirus: seniors, people with pre-existing conditions and those with compromised immune symptoms.

The rest of the patients, Cuomo noted, are recovering at home with flu-like symptoms.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has scheduled a 1:30 p.m. briefing Tuesday for an update on the coronavirus situation in New York City. Check with amny.com later for further updates.

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