This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Saturday, March 7th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here. Our guide to preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
More Cases Bring State Total Up To 89
Updated 6:45 p.m. Governor Cuomo has announced 13 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 since his last update, bringing the statewide total to 89. All 13 of the new cases are located in Westchester County. No details were provided. To date, the bulk of the cases in Westchester have been connected to the New Rochelle lawyer who tested positive earlier this week.
"There are going to be more cases because we are testing more people—that's a good thing because then we can deal with the situation based on more facts," Cuomo said in a statement.
Earlier today, Cuomo ordered the New York State Department of State's Consumer Protection Division to launch an investigation into reports of coronavirus-related price gouging on items like household cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer. New Yorkers who observe price-gouging are advised to call 1-800-697-1220.
De Blasio Releases Details On New NYC Cases
Updated 6:30 p.m. Mayor Bill de Blasio has released details on the seven new COVID-19 cases in New York City spread across three boroughs.
“This morning, we confirmed 7 new cases of COVID-19. We are seeing more community transmission between people who have no direct connection to travel to one of the affected countries,” the mayor said in a statement. "I urge New Yorkers to remain vigilant—not alarmed—and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones."
Two of the individuals are the wife and 11-year-old daughter of the 50-year-old man on the Upper West Side who tested positive on Friday. The man is said to be connected to a New Rochelle lawyer, who was found to be infected earlier this week and has since been tied to a cluster of cases in Westchester. The wife and daughter were described as showing mild symptoms. All are under mandatory quarantine.
Three cases in Brooklyn appear to be travel-related. Two Brooklyn women in their 60s and 70s who tested positive developed symptoms after returning on a cruise from Egypt with a known cluster of cases. They are both at home in mandatory quarantine. Another is a man in his 30s who was hospitalized after a trip to Italy. According to the mayor's office, the man is in serious condition.
Another case involves a Manhattan man in his late 50s who tested positive after spending time with someone whose infection was confirmed in Chile. The man was discharged from the hospital this morning. He is now under mandatory quarantine.
The Queens case is that of the Uber driver whose details were disclosed by City Councilmember Donovan Richards Jr. earlier today.
A total of 18 New York City residents are currently under mandatory quarantine and 2,255 are under voluntary quarantine. Those under mandatory quarantine receive daily calls and receive unannounced visits twice weekly by city health officials.
Cuomo Declares State Of Emergency
Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York state rose overnight from 44 to 76. The formal declaration, which Cuomo had hinted at during Friday's press conference, will allow the state expedite the purchasing of supplies as well as hiring in what appears to be an escalating public health crisis.
Of the total cases statewide, 57 are in Westchester, a worrisome cluster that have mostly, if not all, resulted from an attorney in New Rochelle who tested positive early this week and is currently hospitalized in New York City. Cuomo said that of the 23 additional cases in Westchester announced today, all were connected to the attorney, who worked in Manhattan and had attended a funeral and bar mitzvah prior to being hospitalized.
Within the five boroughs, there were seven new cases: two from a cruise ship and five through community spread.
Of the new cases, two were in Saratoga County. Exemplifying the complex and winding path of transmission, the individuals were at a conference in Miami where they came into contact with an infected person who was from Pennsylvania.
Of the 76 people who have tested positive for the virus, 10 are hospitalized. In an effort to prevent potential outbreaks among vulnerable members of the population, the state is performing a census of nursing homes and similar facilities that house seniors.
Cuomo said that he had ordered senior nursing homes in the immediate area of New Rochelle to bar visitors. He said he himself had advised his 88-year-old mother to avoid large gatherings.
Like de Blasio, Cuomo on Saturday criticized the federal government for its delay in rolling out diagnostic tests to states and local authorities. The state is currently performing hundreds of tests a day both through its own state lab in Albany as well as through approved contractors. But the governor has said that that number needs to be quickly ramped up to thousands. He said he is waiting for federal officials to approve automated testing in private and university labs, a measure that would speed up the process.
"I believe the CDC was caught flat footed," he said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been blamed for bungling the development and distribution of a coronavirus test for states and municipalities. "I believe they are slow in their response. I believe they are slowing down the state."
He said the state need to test aggressively. "We want to identify people," he added. "We want to put them in a position where they don’t infect anybody else."
Washington State Announces More Deaths
Washington State said that it had 20 more cases of coronavirus, for a total of 102. Two more deaths were announced, with 16 deaths across the state. Fourteen of the deaths have been at the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, outside of Seattle.
Italy Looks To Lock Down Milan
According to a draft decree seen by Bloomberg News, the Italian government is going to restrict activities in the city of Milan and surrounding area: "The measures, set to come into force Sunday and last until April 3, will stop anyone from entering or exiting the most-affected areas, while movement inside will be allowed only for 'non-deferrable' business or health reasons, the draft said. Skiing, public events, religious ceremonies and work meetings will be suspended, and schools, museums, swimming pools and theaters will close."
Further, the report states, "Bars and restaurants will have to make sure people keep at least a meter apart or they’ll be shut. The draft specifies that failing to respect the measures is a criminal offense, and might lead to imprisonment. Police and the army will be responsible to ensure that containment measures are respected."
Travel lockdowns are also reportedly planned in "Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio nell’Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Venice, Padua, Treviso, Asti and Alessandria."
New Case In Rockaway Is An Uber Driver
Elected officials in Queens announced on Saturday morning that there is a novel coronavirus case in Rockaway.
City Council Member Donovan Richards, Congressman Gregory Meeks, State Senator James Sanders, Jr., and Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer-Amato will be holding a press conference outside St. John’s Hospital in Far Rockaway today.
A press release said, "The first case of Coronavirus has been confirmed in Rockaway and elected officials are calling an emergency press conference to request funding and resources to prepare Queens for Coronavirus immediately."
City Councilmember Donovan Richards Jr., who represents Far Rockaway, identified one person as an Uber driver in his early 30s who is currently hospitalized and under quarantine. He said his office has reached out to Uber so that it can alert the man's customers.
The New York Times reported that at St. John's Episcopal Hospital, where the the man was admitted, more than 40 doctors, nurses and other workers went into self-quarantine over concerns that they had been exposed to the virus. The account seemed to validate the concerns that some health professionals have raised about whether hospitals are prepared to handle COVID-19 cases.
"Safety is paramount at this moment," Richards said, adding that he hoped to see more communication and coordination between government agencies around this issue.
Tom Melillo, a hospital spokesman, disputed the Times story, saying that the number 40 was inaccurate. He said that hospital officials were closely monitoring those who may have been exposed and were making decisions about isolation on a "case by case basis."
"It's unfolding," he added. “We're learning more and more. We're working with the Department of Health.”
He said that the hospital was in fact ready for coronavirus cases. "We have a task force in place. We have been preparing for this for a while as I assume all the hospitals have been preparing."
Updates On New York Cases
On Friday, Cuomo announced that there were 44 COVID-19 cases in New York State, including four in New York City, four on Long Island, two in Rockland County, and 34 in Westchester County. The Westchester and Rockland County cases, plus one NYC case, are connected to an attorney who lives in New Rochelle and works in Manhattan.
There are also four cases in New Jersey, with three in Bergen County (one case is a man who lives and works in NYC).
Both Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized that New Yorkers should remember to wash their hands (for at least 20 seconds) and not attend work or other gatherings if they feel sick. Cuomo added, "I'm urging that people understand the information and not the hype. We have more people in this country dying from the flu thank we have dying from coronavirus. All the experts say 80 percent will self-resolve, 20 percent may get ill, may require hospitalization. And it's most problematic for senior citizens, people with immune-compromised situations and people with an underlying illness."
First Cases Reported In Other States; First East Coast Deaths
Two people died from coronavirus in Florida, making them the first deaths on the East Coast. Washington State, which has at least 86 cases, has had 14 deaths, while California (79 cases) has had one person, a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise ship, pass away.
The first cases of coronavirus was announced in more states on Friday, including Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.
NBA Asks Teams To Plan Possibility Of Games Without Fans
Multiple outlets have reported that the NBA has sent a memo to teams to, as ESPN explains, "begin developing processes and identifying actions required if they have to play games without fans in attendance, limiting attendees to only what is deemed 'essential staff.'"
Previously, the NBA apparently advised players to employ fist bumps instead of high-fives with fans among other measures.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is not enthusiastic about spectator-less games:
On Friday afternoon, Yeshiva University's men's basketball team, the Maccabees played a game in Baltimore without fans over Maryland's concerns about coronavirus.