Hospital in Queens has borough’s first coronavirus case; Cuomo declares state of emergency

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, Queens. (Photo via Google Maps)
Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency Saturday as the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow statewide — with Queens being the latest county to have a patient with the illness.
According to state Senator James Sanders, the Queens individual is hospitalized at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway. The patient is in isolation, and no one else has been quarantined at the medical center.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday evening that the patient is a male Uber driver in his 30s who drives on Long Island. He is not a TLC licensed driver, according to the mayor.

“The New York City Department of Health has confirmed that a patient at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital has tested positive for COVID-19,” a spokesperson for St. John’s Episcopal Hospital said. “The patient is currently in isolation and we are closely monitoring team members who may have been exposed to this patient.  We have been actively preparing for this, and we will continue to follow all standard infection control guidelines.”
Sanders and other elected officials — including Councilman Donovan Richards, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and other elected officials and city agencies — had been scheduled to hold a press conference this afternoon at the hospital, but that was cancelled.
“I was informed by St. John’s Episcopal Hospital that they have a confirmed case of a patient with COVID-19, aka the Coronavirus,” said Amato in a tweet. “The patient has been isolated, and [the hospital] are (sic) taking all necessary steps & following all guidelines to ensuring the safety of the rest of their patients hospital staff, and surrounding community. I encourage everyone to consistently wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing to reduce any risk of exposure.”
Meanwhile, Cuomo’s emergency declaration comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Empire State reached 76, including 11 confirmed diagnoses in New York City alone.
The vast majority of the state’s cases are in Westchester County and are connected to a New Rochelle attorney diagnosed with coronavirus on Monday.
There are 18 New York City residents under mandatory quarantine and 2,255 are under voluntary quarantine, according to de Blasio.
The declaration allows New York State to more quickly acquire various resources to help fight coronavirus, from cleaning supplies to testing equipment and other materials. It also opens the door for quicker hiring of medical professionals and authorizes EMTs to transport patients to designated quarantine locations as well as hospitals.
“As the local health departments continue to monitor and quarantine people, we have a more expedited purchasing protocol to get them all the tools they need to contain the virus spread,” Cuomo said.
Meanwhile, the state is now increasing efforts to stop retailers and others from taking advantage of the crisis by inflating prices for hand sanitizers, masks and other items used to protect people.
“In the meantime we are cracking down on price gouging which continues to be a problem, and I want businesses to be aware that you could lose your license because we are very serious about this,” he added.

“I want businesses to be aware that you could lose your license for price gouging. This is serious. It is not just price gouging. It is price gouging in an emergency situation where you are being exploitative of the public. And there are specific legal provisions for price gouging in an emergency situation. If you are a store, you can lose your license and we are very serious about this. For the few dollars that you are going to make during this situation it is not worth your while,” Cuomo added.

Cuomo said New Yorkers can report suspected price gouging by calling a toll-free hotline at 1-800-697-1220.

This story was updated at 2:05 p.m. on March 7; Robert Pozarycki contributed to this report.
Click here for more information on the coronavirus.