Coronavirus concerning, but not as big a threat as other illnesses, Cuomo says

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio in a side-by-side address on March 2, 2020 about the first coronavirus case in New York City. (Photo by Mark Hallum)
Photo by Mark Hallum

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio made a rare partnership in a Monday press conference briefing the public on coronavirus as the first confirmed case in Manhattan was reported Sunday night.

Cuomo emphasized that while coronavirus is concerning, it’s not as grave a threat as other illnesses such as ebola or influenza. 

“Avian flu, ebola, SARS, MERS, measles, right? So we have gone through this before,” Cuomo continued. “When you look at the reality here, about 80% of people who are infected with the coronavirus self-resolve… 20% get ill. The mortality rate estimated to be about 1.4% – what does that mean? The normal flu mortality rate is about 0.6%.”

The governor repeated several times that the first confirmed case in a healthcare worker who recently returned from Iran did not require hospitalization. She is treating herself at home with her husband – also a healthcare worker – and taking “textbook” protocols to prevent the spread.

Cuomo said the state’s goal is to test about 1,000 people per day, if necessary, to contain the illness, which originated in China back in December and has since spread to dozens of countries around the world.

“There is no doubt that there will be more cases where we find people who test positive, we said early on it wasn’t a question of if but when,” Cuomo said. “Our challenge now is to test as many people as we can. We’re not going to eliminate the spread but we can limit the spread and testing is very important.”

Buses and other transit infrastructure will be treated with bleach, Cuomo said, and the city has reserved 1,200 hospital beds for coronavirus patients.

Cuomo indicated that the state will be contacting passengers who were onboard the same flight from Iran with the infected woman and her husband. The patient did not use public transportation; she took a private car home.

De Blasio reinforced the governor’s stance that the coronavirus leaves healthy New Yorkers with nothing to fear but that those with exhibiting flu-like symptoms and have a “nexus” to affected countries.

“This is a disease we’re learning about, the international community is learning about, but so far it does not seem to be a disease that focuses on the kids; in fact, the opposite,” de Blasio said. “The facts in fact show us that this is a situation that can be managed.”

Transmission requires prolonged exposure to an affected person, according to officials.

Cuomo said he was confident in the federal government’s effort to combat the disease, spearheaded by Vice President Mike Pence, but said they were not offering the state nearly enough support. Stemming the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19, is bound to be costly for New York, he said.

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