Midtown Lawyer Positive for Coronavirus Is NY's 1st Case of Person-to-Person Spread

New York now has two confirmed cases of coronavirus; now health officials are working to trace the man's movements to see who else may have been exposed to risk

NBC Universal, Inc.

What to Know

  • New York has two confirmed cases of coronavirus -- a man in Westchester County, believed to be the state's first person-to-person spread case, and a woman who lives in Manhattan
  • The husband of the Manhattan woman is also being tested; his results are expected to come back positive as well
  • To date, coronavirus or COVID-19 has infected about 90,000 people worldwide and killed hundreds; at least six people have died in the U.S.

UPDATE: Family and Neighbor of NYC Attorney Also Test Positive for COVID-19, Taking State to 6 Cases; Dad Hospitalized in ICU

An attorney who lives in Westchester County and works in midtown Manhattan is New York state's second confirmed coronavirus case — and the first apparent instance of community spread, the governor said Tuesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said an initial review of the 50-year-old man's travels doesn't suggest any travel to China or other countries at the nexus of the outbreak, so authorities are treating it as a case of person-to-person spread.

The man, who is from New Rochelle and has an underlying respiratory illness, first experienced respiratory issues late last month and they recently intensified. He was diagnosed at a hospital in the city on Monday, the first day the city was able to conduct such rapid testing locally, Mayor Bill de Blasio added. The man, who works at the Lewis and Garbuz law firm located on East 42nd Street directly across from Grand Central Terminal, remains hospitalized in serious condition at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and de Blasio said Tuesday there is severe concern for him.

Hand santizer, disinfecting wipes and masks were all in short supply over the region as fears surrounding the novel coronavirus outbreak spread. NBC New York’s Marc Santia reports.

He did develop some symptoms in late February, and went to Lawrence Hospital in Westchester on February 27. He has been with his family in Westchester, so health officials are testing relatives and assessing others for potential risk.

At this point, authorities are working to trace his movements, whether he used mass transit or other public offerings. He has two children, a son and a daughter, with connections to New York City, de Blasio said. One has been asymptomatic and one has reported some; both have been isolated at their home and are being tested. Authorities are also coordinating with their schools to evaluate potential contacts. The city is also testing seven people at the man's law firm.

In addition, either the man or one of his children attended Young Israel of New Rochelle after being exposed to the novel coronavirus, forcing the synagogue to halt all services for the foreseeable future, according to Westchester County officials. The county's health department also requests anyone who attended services at the temple on February 22, or a funeral and bat mitzvah on February 23, go into self-quarantine until at least March 8.

With the second confirmed case and the first community-spread instance, schools and places of worship with possible connections to the latest patient are closing as a precaution. The second patient's son and daughter are also being tested and quarantined. NBC New York’s Rana Novini reports.

One of the patient's children, a daughter, attends SAR Academy and High School in the Bronx. The school administrators voluntarily closed the school, although she was not exhibiting symptoms.

Two other Westchester County schools, Westchester Day School in Mamaroneck and Westchester Torah Academy in White Plains, were also closed as a precaution due to possible exposure.

The man's son, who was reported as showing symptoms, is a student at Yeshiva University. In a statement, the school put out an update to provide the university community with the latest information.

"We have learned that one of the children of the Westchester attorney identified as New York’s second case of COVID-19 is an undergraduate male student at Yeshiva University. We are working closely with, and following the recommendations of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response and other government agencies to take every necessary precaution to ensure the safety of our community," Yeshiva University said.

NBC New York’s Brian Thompson went to one of New Jersey's largest hospitals to see what the process patients go through as they get tested for coronavirus if they exhibit symptoms.

Yeshiva University said that the student has not been on campus since Feb. 27 and is in quarantine with his family. They are disinfecting all relevant common areas.

Additionally, the university said that a Cardozo School of Law student is also "in self-quarantine as instructed by their doctor, as a precaution because of contact with the patient's law firm. The Cardozo student is reporting no symptoms."

The university said that all functions and classes are continuing to operate as usual.

Six deaths in Washington state; dozens more cases confirmed across the country.

The mayor said the city hopes to have a more complete map of the man's interactions, from work to home to schools, by mid-week.

Local and county-level officials are working closely with city leaders. While they have been preparing, COVID-19 remains a new frontier.

"We are in uncharted territory," Westchester County Executive George Latimer said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference. A dozen people have been quarantined in the county as authorities work to trace the man's steps.

“Now, more than ever, New Yorkers must come together as a city to limit the spread of COVID-19. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or shortness of breath, call your health care provider,” said NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “The Health Department will do everything in our power to minimize the disruption caused by this evolving situation, and we will continue to communicate openly and honestly with New Yorkers.”

Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena of Northwell Health answers your questions about the novel coronavirus.

New York City officials said they had moved aggressively to minimize the potential risk from the new case. Enhanced screening should also help curb the spread of coronavirus. New York's state lab began testing for the virus over the weekend, but Cuomo said he has set a goal of being able to do 1,000 tests per day within a week. The city's lab began tests Monday and immediately turned up a positive -- the Westchester County man.

Despite all the preparation and rapid response, authorities say they expect coronavirus to be an issue for New York for some time -- and pledged regular updates.

"This is a crisis that, it's fair to say, will likely be with us for several months," de Blasio said.

Cuomo reiterated that concept earlier Tuesday, saying in his announcement of the new confirmed case that it "is inevitable that it'll continue to spread."

The state has also set up a hotline with information and to answer questions on the coronavius. The hotline can be reached at 1-888-364-3065.

A person in New York has tested positive for COVID-19, more commonly known as the novel coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo said late Sunday. Ida Siegal reports.

The Westchester man is only the second confirmed case that the tri-state has seen -- and the country's 12th apparent case of person-to-person spread, by the latest CDC numbers -- since the outbreak that has now killed at least nine people in the United States and thousands worldwide.

The CDC said Tuesday that it had a total of 60 cases reported by 12 states; only about a third of those have been confirmed to be related to travel. The agency, which has warned for weeks to expect a disruptive spread of the virus in America, said it has enough kits to test more than 75,000 people right now.

New York leaders sought to calm jittery nerves Monday after the city recorded its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus, saying the disease — while dangerous — is a manageable threat.

The state is increasing its testing capacity and telling people to expect the smell of bleach as it steps up cleaning in schools and public transit, all while underscoring that the diagnosed woman's symptoms are so mild that she can recover at home, not in a hospital.

“In this situation, the facts defeat fear. Because the reality is reassuring. It is deep-breath time," Cuomo said.

Some facilities are taking more precautionary and proactive measures. SAR Academy in the Bronx's Riverdale section said Tuesday it would be closed due to the threat of coronavirus, saying "there is a suspected case of coronavirus in our community," according to a school email signed by its principal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning Americans to begin preparing for a likely outbreak of coronavirus in the United States, saying that both a "community spread," as well as disruption to work, school and life were likely in the event of a domestic outbreak.

A second Jewish day school, Westchester Day School, also announced it would be closed Tuesday due to a potential case. Then came a third: Westchester Torah Academy. All three closures were announced strictly as a precaution, but Cuomo warned that more schools may follow suit.

The news comes as the city awaits test results for the husband of a New York City woman who tested positive for the novel coronavirus after her return from Iran. He is expected to also have contracted the infection, local and state authorities said at a separate news briefing Monday.

The 39-year-old health care worker who tested positive wasn't believed to have been contagious when she returned last Tuesday from a trip to Iran, a new seat of the outbreak, Cuomo said at a joint briefing with de Blasio Monday.

The only thing spreading faster than the panic regarding COVID-19 virus may be the myths surrounding it, including how it spreads and what can be done to prevent from getting it. NBC New York’s Rana Novini reports.

The woman took a car service from the airport to her home in Manhattan and secluded herself immediately, officials said. Still, officials will contact people who were on her flight and the driver who brought her home.

The woman began showing symptoms Saturday and arranged to be tested that day, Demetre Daskalakis, a deputy New York City health commissioner, said at a second briefing the mayor led later in the day.

Vice President Mike Pence said during a Monday press briefing that despite recent American deaths, the risk of coronavirus in the United States "remains low."

Both she and her husband have been in isolation at their home in Manhattan. Also currently in isolation: two families from Buffalo who recently traveled to Italy. They are secluded within their homes pending the test results. The city's Department of Health said that as of Tuesday, it had another five cases pending test results as well.

Officials have said for weeks they anticipated the virus would surface eventually in the nation's biggest city. Still, the rapid developments brought questions about the potential for sickness to spread quickly in a city of close quarters — from apartment buildings to subway cars — and officials sought to tamp down fears.

The Metropolitan Transportation says it has enhanced its daily cleaning procedures of all stations, train cars and buses in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So far, one person in New York City has been confirmed with the virus but the woman has not taken used public transport since she got back from Iran, officials said. NBC New York's Anjali Hemphill reports.

“We want New Yorkers to go about their everyday lives — use the subway, take the bus, etc.,” Health Commissioner Barbot said, explaining that COVID-19 “is not an illness that can be easily spread through casual contact.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the virus is thought to spread mainly via respiratory droplets among “close contacts” — such as coming directly into contact with the droplets or certain other bodily fluids from a patient, or being within about 6 feet (2 meters) of a patient for “a prolonged period.” It is characterized by fever and coughing and, in serious cases, shortness of breath or pneumonia.

But authorities have stressed that for 80 percent of the population, the infection resolves on its own. De Blasio said he was confident residents would and could go about their regular lives.

At the same time, he and other officials stressed that people who develop possible symptoms should seek care right away, and they urged everyone to take such precautions as hand washing and covering coughs or sneezes. And officials said they expect to see more cases in the city at some point.

De Blasio said New York City would be deploying an “early detection system” that would let medical providers pool and share information about suspected cases and symptoms. New cleaning protocols are also in place for public transportation and schools. Get more details from the MTA here.

Vice President Mike Pence said during a Monday press briefing that despite recent American deaths, the risk of coronavirus in the United States "remains low."

On Tuesday, Cuomo signed into law a $40 million emergency management authorization for the state's coronavirus response. The money would let the state hire extra staff and purchase additional equipment and other resources as necessary to respond to the evolving situation. The governor also said he would amend his Paid Sick Leave budget proposal to specifically protect people from getting fired in the event they must stay home from work because they are isolated or quarantined due to the virus.

Dr. Robert Amler, Dean of NY Medical College's School of Health Sciences -- and a former chief medical officer of the CDC -- joins David Ushery to answer your questions about the Wuhan coronavirus and COVID-19.
Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
Contact Us