This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Friday, March 6th, 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.
Update 6:00 p.m. In a critical development for combatting the spread of coronavirus, New York City has expanded its testing capacity for COVID-19 from dozens to now hundreds of tests a day. At a press briefing, Mayor de Blasio said the increased testing capability came as a result of private labs coming online after securing FDA approval. However, he said even with the additional labs, the city still is short of its goal of being able to perform thousands of tests a day.
He added that the city still needed the federal government to approve testing that was faster and more efficient.
"The faster we can do turnaround on results, the more we can address the situation," he said.
There have currently been five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in New York City.
During the briefing, the mayor provided more details about two of the individuals who recently tested positive.
The newest case, which was reported this morning, is a 51-year man who lives on the Upper West Side and is connected to the Westchester attorney. The mayor said the man has no preexisting conditions and has mild symptoms.
His 47-year-old wife, and three daughters, ages 8, 10, 11 are also showing mild symptoms and were tested today. The results are still pending. The city's disease detectives have already interviewed the family members and are tracing their contacts, the mayor said.
Another case, a 32 year old health care worker who tested positive on Thursday, is currently in stable condition at Hackensack Medical Center. The man has residences in Midtown and Fort Lee. He has previously been described by New Jersey officials as working in New York.
The mayor revealed that the health care worker saw 10 patients on Feb. 29 while he had symptoms. He was said to be wearing masks and gloves at time time. All 10 patients have been monitored, the mayor said. None have shown symptoms.
Across the U.S., there are now more than 250 cases. Vice President Mike Pence said today that 21 people aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, which has been held in the bay outside of San Francisco, tested positive for COVID-19. Nineteen crew members and two passengers have the coronavirus.
A 71-year-old male passenger who took a cruise to Mexico and disembarked in San Francisco on February 21 took ill and died on February 27, after being hospitalized. He had an underlying respiratory condition. Another passenger who disembarked on February 21 was also diagnosed with coronavirus.
The cruise, which continued on from San Francisco with 65 passengers, plus crew members, started a 15-day trip to Hawaii was called back after the passengers were diagnosed with coronavirus.
"The ship will now move to a 'non-commercial port' where the passengers will be unloaded. Officials said they do not want a repeat of what happened on the the Diamond Princess in Japan where the illness rapidly spread while the ship was moored at a pier in quarantine," according to CBS SF.
Update 5:30 p.m. New Yorkers looking to hedge against coronavirus in their travel plans can now purchase "cancel for any reason" insurance policies. Up until now, such policies had been unavailable in New York but the Department of Financial Services on Friday said that it issued new guidance after receiving consumer complaints. A press release from Governor Cuomo said, "This new action is designed to provide reassurance to New York businesses and residents who are seeking to make plans that may involve travel to locations that are not currently under travel advisories due to COVID-19."
Six insurance companies have agreed to offer "cancel for any reason" coverage to travelers, including: Allianz, Nationwide, Starr Indemnity, Berkshire, Crum & Forster, and Zurich.
Update 5:00 p.m. City officials in Austin have cancelled the March dates for SXSW, the popular annual music, tech and film festival, as a result of coronavirus concerns. Shortly after the decision was announced, the organizers issued a statement.
"We are devastated to share this news with you," the statement read. "'The show must go on' is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation."
They said that they were "exploring options to reschedule the event" as well as "working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU."
The festival, which draws over 32,000 people, had been scheduled to take place on March 13 thru March 22.
Update 4:45 p.m. There are now 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 confirmed in New York State. At another coronavirus press conference this afternoon, Governor Cuomo announced 11 new cases: 8 in Westchester County, 3 in Nassau County.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to hold his own press briefing at 5: 40 p.m. You can tune in here for the livestream.
Update 4 p.m. Stocks took a nosedive amid increasing panic over the spread of COVID-19. The S&P 500 dropped 2 percent, but most stunningly, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note dropped to a historic low of 0.7 percent. The steep decline reflects the fact the investors are fleeing stocks and instead putting their money into Treasury bonds, which are low-interest but considered safe.
While the Federal Reserve cut rates this week, some analysts have said that the market is looking at the White House to allay concerns about the impact of the virus.
“The most essential policy response is the public health one — testing, treatment, quarantine, contact tracing, social distancing, lockdown,” John Normand, a cross asset strategist at JPMorgan Chase, wrote in a note Friday.
Update 12 p.m. There are 11 more cases of COVID-19 in New York state, all related to the Westchester attorney who tested positive on Tuesday. The total number of cases statewide is now 33, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo during a press briefing.
Here is the breakdown: Three of the individuals are members of Young Israel of New Rochelle, the synagogue attended by the Westchester man. Two are friends of the man. Two people are residents of Rockland County who worked at a bat mitzvah the man attended. Three are people who visited the man at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, where he was first admitted on February 27th. He was later transported to New York Presbyterian hospital in northern Manhattan.
And another is a man in 50s who lives in Manhattan, who earlier this morning Mayor Bill de Blasio said was connected to the Westchester man.
Statewide, 4,000 people are under self-quarantine, only 44 of which are mandatory.
Cuomo today activated the statewide Emergency Operation Center in Albany, as well as two Emergency Operations Center outposts in Westchester County: one in Hawthorne and one in New Rochelle. New York is slated to receive $35 million of the $8.3 billion federal funding bill that President Trump signed this morning [see below].
Cuomo criticized the amount as inadequate for the state's response, which has required hundreds of tests as well as quarantine and tracing measures. "It’s ludicrous," he said. "It’s a drop in the bucket."
Gothamist/WNYC has also learned that the son of the Westchester rabbi with COVID-19 is a senior City Hall staffer. Officials say he has tested negative for coronavirus.
Avi Fink, chief of staff for the Office of Management and Budget, was tested out of an abundance of caution, according to a City Hall spokesperson.
On Thursday night, his father, Rabbi Reuven Fink, notified members of his congregation at Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue via email that he had tested positive, according to The New York Times. The synagogue is attended by the Westchester patient who tested positive on Tuesday.
Update 11 a.m. President Trump signed an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill on Friday to combat the spread of COVID-19. The amount was far greater than the $2.5 billion initially requested by the White House, which has downplayed the risk of the public health crisis in the U.S.
"We're signing the $8.3 billion. I asked for 2.5 and I got 8.3, and I'll take it," Trump told reporters. "We're doing well, but it's an unforeseen problem."
On Friday, the president tweeted support for Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services who, along with Vice President Mike Pence, is leading a task force on the U.S. response to coronavirus. There are now more than 200 cases in the country and 14 deaths.
After abruptly canceling a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the president is expected to make the trip on Friday to the agency's headquarters in Atlanta after all. Trump told reporters that he had canceled the tour because of a suspected case of coronavirus at the CDC.
Later, White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham confirmed that the CDC visit is back on, according to a press pool report. She said that the person at the CDC had tested negative.
The World Health Organization has called on countries to ramp up measures to contain the spread of the disease, which has to date has been blamed for at least 3,400 deaths.
"As COVID-19 cases increase, we are continuing to recommend that all countries make containment their highest priority," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, during a press briefing this morning. "We continue to call on countries to find, test, isolate and care for every case, and to trace every contact."
Update 10 a.m. Mayor Bill de Blasio said this morning there is one new case of COVID-19 associated with the Westchester lawyer: a man in 50s who lives in Manhattan. The man has mild symptoms, the mayor told WNYC's Brian Lehrer. The city is currently testing his family, and disease detectives are following up on his contacts, he added.
The mayor described the more than 2,700 people currently under some form of quarantine in NYC, mandatory or voluntary, as a precautionary measure. De Blasio said city health officials are regularly reaching out to those individuals to check if they have symptoms and that they are abiding by the quarantine.
Despite news reports that the Westchester man had taken Metro-North to commute to his law office in Midtown, de Blasio refused to confirm that, saying, "If he traveled on Metro-North, that's not overly telling or indicative." In the wake of the positive cases, the mayor and other city officials have been encouraging the public to continue taking the subway and other forms of public transit. On Thursday, de Blasio took the A/C line from the Fulton Street station subway in Lower Manhattan to the city's Office of Emergency Management in Brooklyn as part of a photo op.
Update 8:00 a.m. Yeshiva University has alerted more of its students about possible exposure to COVID-19 after learning that one of its teachers has contracted the virus. In a tweet published at 1:45 a.m., the school said that Rabbi Reuven Fink, who heads the Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue, had tested positive and informed his congregants. Fink teaches two undergraduate classes at Yeshiva University's Washington Heights campus. Yeshiva University is recommending that students in his classes self-quarantine.
Rabbi Fink's synagogue, where services were suspended this week, is reportedly the same one attended by the Westchester patient, who tested positive on Tuesday. The man, an attorney who works in Manhattan, is currently being treated at New York Presbyterian hospital. His condition has been described as improving.
To date, at least 17 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in New York are connected in some way to the man.
In New York City, two Manhattan private schools have closed due to coronavirus concerns. The all-girls Spence School said on their website that it would be closed "for a comprehensive sanitization of the entire campus" on the Upper East Side. The Collegiate School, an all boys school on the Upper West Side, also said it would be closed Friday. According to news reports, Collegiate said it had learned that a middle school family was being monitored due to potential exposure of a parent to the virus during a recent trip abroad.
"The family informed us immediately of their situation and is following the protocols recommended by the Department of Health and family physicians," the Collegiate School said in a statement provided to ABC 7 News. "As directed by the Department of Health, the family will self-quarantine until test results are completed."
Meanwhile, New Jersey officials on Thursday night confirmed the state's second positive case: a woman in her 30s who had mild symptoms. A spokesperson for Englewood Health said she was released from the hospital and was ordered to self-quarantine.