Yesterday, after more than a month of steadily climbing fatality numbers, frantic cooling tower inspections, and conflicting information from city and state officials, the city's Health Department declared the largest Legionnaires' outbreak in NYC history officially over. The outbreak, which was first reported on July 12th, killed 12 New Yorkers and sickened more than 120 others.
The department has also identified the cooling towers atop the Opera House Hotel at 436 East 149th Street as the outbreak's ground zero. The Post reports that strain from these towers was matched to that found in 25 patients, and that mist from the towers could have traveled "up to a mile."
These particular cooling towers were among five Legionnaires' hot spots that Mayor de Blasio officially identified on August 5th (Lincoln Medical Center, Concourse Plaza, a Verizon building and Streamline Plastic Co. were the others).
Still, this news has likely elicited a face-palm from Glenn Isaacs, VP of the Empire Hotel Group which owns the Opera House. Isaacs lashed out at the mayor on August 10th, when an anonymous Health Department official told the NYTimes that, even though test results were still out, "the investigation so far pointed to the hotel" as the outbreak's source.
"It's outrageous that these officials would offer little more than speculation to the Times, while admitting in the same article that the information could be wrong," Isaacs said in a statement. "We are deeply concerned that there has been a rush to judgment as part of some game of one-upmanship between City and State officials. We made it clear to the DOH we viewed these statements as completely inappropriate, even reckless," he added.
De Blasio was dismissive of Isaac's frustration—later that week he told reporters, "I don't know why there's such great concern for the owner of a hotel when we are talking about a disease outbreak that's affecting so many people."
The Opera House Hotel, known for playing host to public figures like Harry Houdini and the mayor of San Juan, has since issued a statement, stating that since cleaning, the cooling towers have tested negative for Legionnaires'.
But there's more! Even though the outbreak has been declared "over," and no new cases have been reported since August 3rd, the disease tends to incubate for two weeks. According to the News, Health Commissioner Mary Bassett hedged yesterday that there was still an "outside chance" of new cases.