Two more deaths have been linked to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the South Bronx, bringing the total fatalities to 12, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday as he and the City Council introduced fast-tracked legislation to prevent future flare-ups.
City inspectors have completed a canvass of buildings in the affected area, finding that 11 cooling towers including the ones believed to be the cause of the outbreak have tested positive for the Legionella bacteria, officials said Monday night.
At least 113 people have contracted the treatable pneumonia, and the dead all had pre-existing health problems, de Blasio said at City Hall. He called the outbreak a “new set of realities that we have never encountered before.”
City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said the rate of infections is ebbing, and no one has been diagnosed since Aug. 3. The council will hold a hearing Tuesday on legislation mandating that all buildings with cooling towers register with the city and submit to quarterly inspections, de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said. Standards will be set for testing, cleaning and disinfection. Annual certification will be required and those not complying will be penalized, they said.
“This will be a very activist approach,” de Blasio said.
The mayor’s media briefing at City Hall competed with a simultaneous update by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at his midtown Manhattan office.
As de Blasio told reporters the city had discovered two new contaminated buildings — a city homeless services intake center and a nursing home — within the impact zone, the governor said state inspectors working in the Bronx had found three infected structures outside the impact area.
It appeared that the political rivals had not coordinated their information, but a Cuomo spokeswoman later said the governor was relaying the state’s results to reporters as he received them in real time. She said state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker immediately left a detailed message for his city counterpart, Bassett, when his team found the three contaminated sites.
Bassett and Zucker Monday night issued a statement, saying 18 sites are positive for legionella in and out of the impact zone.
Asked about being apparently out of sync with the state, de Blasio said, “We right now are focused on the impact zone, because that’s where the outbreak is.” He condemned the questioning as “political.”
Cuomo said he will pursue regulations on cooling towers. He said it was not his “place to comment” on how well or poorly the city is responding to the outbreak.