Coronavirus update: de Blasio urges New Yorkers to take extra precautions

FILE PHOTO: People enter the subway station as MTA worker disinfects the station in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York
FILE PHOTO: People enter the subway station as MTA worker disinfects the station in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz – RC2FDF94RWWQ/File Photo

As of Saturday morning, more than 50 people were awaiting test results in New York City to confirm if they have coronavirus, according to the city’s Health Department.

The number of suspected cases and confirmed coronavirus diagnoses — five in New York City thus far — continues to climb with advances in local testing. The latest New York City case, a 51-year-old Manhattan man isolated at home with mild symptoms, is connected to the outbreak in New Rochelle that developed earlier this week.

But Mayor Bill de Blasio warned Friday in a Twitter thread that the number will likely keep growing because there’s further evidence that the illness is spreading through “community transmission.” 

“We’re seeing more examples of community transmission of COVID-19 in New York City between people who have no direct connection to travel to one of the affected countries,” de Blasio tweeted Friday night.

During an earlier press conference, de Blasio noted that the virus cannot be contracted in the air. People pick it up through a sneeze, a cough or spit from an infected person. 

“You kinda need a direct hit, because it doesn’t just hang in the air,” he said. “It has to come in through the mouth, nose, eyes, directly breathing in someone’s sneeze, cough or spit — or it get on your hands” and you later inadvertently touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

The mayor’s now encouraging New Yorkers who begin to exhibit possible coronavirus symptoms — fever, cough, sore throat and/or shortness of breath — to “treat it differently than usual.” In other words, stay home from work or school if you don’t feel well.

“New Yorkers are used to powering through the workweek when they’re feeling sick, but we’re asking you to change that,” de Blasio tweeted. “Even though the common cold and flu are much more common causes of symptoms than COVID-19, we want those who might have COVID-19 to get care and not spread it to others. So STAY HOME if you have cold or flu symptoms. Same applies for school-aged kids.”

If the symptoms don’t dissipate within 48 hours, the mayor said, it’s time to visit your doctor. Health care costs or a lack of health insurance, he noted, shouldn’t stop anyone from seeking care.

“This is a city that guarantees health care for everyone who needs it, regardless of ability to pay or immigration status, he added. “If you do not have insurance or don’t know where to go, call 311. We will help you find a facility. If you’re unable to pay, you will still get treated.”

Anyone who doesn’t exhibit symptoms should continue going about their business, but continue washing their hands regularly.

De Blasio further announced increased testing capacity in New York City through the private sector.

“That is changing the numbers rapidly,” he said. “We want to get up to thousands of tests per day capacity. But we need the FDA to approve testing that is faster and more efficient than what is currently available.” 

Click here for additional information on the coronavirus.

More from around NYC