Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Thursday unveiled the state's plan to address any potential threats of an Ebola outbreak, noting that eight hospitals in the state are prepared to treat any infected patients.
While saying "there's no reason for undue anxiety," Cuomo said at a news conference in Manhattan that the state has been preparing a response plan for the past several weeks, and tailoring it to avoid the kinds of missteps made by Dallas health officials when two nurses were diagnosed with Ebola after treating a Liberian man who arrived in Dallas with the disease and later died from it.
"It's a situation where how government performs actually matters," Cuomo said of New York's response plan.
The hospitals, which include the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System and Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island, have already been performing preparation drills, and the state has a "stockpile of personal protective equipment" for health care workers, said acting state health Commissioner Howard Zucker.
Thomas Prendergast, head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said that should it be determined that a mass transit passenger is carrying Ebola, the agency has procedures outlined to remove the train or bus from operation to be cleaned and disinfected.
Cuomo said the state was "erring on the side of caution" in developing its plan. "I would rather that than the alternative, which is to be unresponsive," the governor said.
The news conference came as Cuomo's Republican challenger in the upcoming gubernatorial election, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, repeated calls to stop flights coming into the state from the West African nations grappling with the pandemic.
"If President Obama will not shut down flights and passengers from Ebola-stricken West African nations, the governors of New York and New Jersey must instruct the Port Authority to find a way to stop that traffic flow into the New York metropolitan area," Astorino said in a statement. "Citizens, flight crews and health care workers are being put at unnecessary risk of Ebola transmission because of blind political correctness, and it has to stop."
Astorino later appeared alongside Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana at a news conference at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan to repeat the call for a ban on incoming flights from West Africa.
Asked about Astorino's position, Cuomo said that as governor he has no authority over travel restrictions, saying that is a federal issue.
Meanwhile Thursday, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) wrote a letter to Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection officials calling on them to provide better training for airport workers.
"It's vital that more be done to provide training to these individuals and implement protocols should infected passenger transit the airport," King wrote.
Also Thursday, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) called on officials with the Centers for Disease Control to improve measures to protect against the spread of the disease.
"With three Ebola cases now confirmed in the U.S., it is past time for us to reassess our methods to detect and treat the disease," Israel said at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
"That's why I'm calling on the CDC to do everything in its power to shorten the wait time it currently takes to diagnose the disease and to ensure facilities that test patients are specially equipped to contain the virus should it be present."