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Gov. Cuomo: 3 more people in Nassau test positive for coronavirus

At a news conference on Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced 11 new cases of the coronavirus, eight in Westchester County and three in Nassau County, bringing the total to 44 cases.  Credit: NY Governor's Office

Three more people in Nassau County have tested positive for the new coronavirus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced late Friday afternoon.

County Executive Laura Curran said early Friday evening that the three women — ages 36, 41 and 63 — live in the Town of Hempstead and "are connected, are close contacts with the man who tested positive" on Thursday.

Cuomo said that is "actually good news in some ways because it says the process is working. You get a case and you follow that case. And you test that case because you want to find the people who were infected and you want to isolate those people.”

The Nassau man who tested positive is a part-time employee at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre.

Nassau Health Commissioner Lawrence Eisenstein said he does not believe the three women got the virus in the workplace.

The employee was last at work in late February and did not exhibit symptoms at the time, Patrick M. O’Shaughnessy, executive vice president and chief clinical officer of Catholic Health Services, said in a statement. Catholic Health operates Mercy.

Catholic Health spokeswoman Chris Hendriks declined to say what type of job the man has and whether it involves contact with patients, citing privacy laws.

Investigators with Mercy and the state and Nassau County health departments are interviewing anyone with whom he was in contact, she said.

They are then contacting those individuals, who are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days, said Mary Ellen Laurain, spokeswoman for the Nassau County Health Department. 

“The people are being evaluated for any signs of illness,” O’Shaughnessy said.

Investigators are now talking to the three women to find out their daily routines and who they were in close contact with, and will then work to locate those people, Curran said.

A spokeswoman at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola said the 42-year-old man is being treated there. The man has not been in intensive care, she said. Laurain said Friday night his condition is continuing to improve. A source has said the man lives in Uniondale.

One of the women is hospitalized, said Laurain, who did not know her condition. The other two women are in self-isolation in their homes and do not require hospitalization, she said.

Statewide, there are now 44 people who have tested positive for the virus, up from 22 on Thursday, Cuomo announced Friday. Except for the three new Nassau cases, all are linked to a New Rochelle attorney who is hospitalized with the virus, called COVID-19, he said. There are eight new cases in Westchester.

Curran said that in Nassau in addition to the three positive test results, nine tests came back negative and eight are pending.

There are 59 people in Nassau being monitored for potential exposure to the virus, Curran said.

In Suffolk County, there are four people whose test results are pending and 17 people in self-isolation because of their travel history, the Suffolk Health Department said.

After the man who later tested positive arrived at NYU Winthrop, hospital officials consulted with the county and state health departments to determine if he should be tested for COVID-19, Laurain said.

The man has no history of travel to countries with especially large numbers of COVID-19 cases and there is no indication he had been in contact with another person with the virus, state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said at a news conference in Dix Hills on Thursday.

The CDC on Wednesday broadened its guidelines to health care providers on who should be tested for the virus. Previously, the agency advised testing only for a limited number of people, including those with recent travel to a highly affected country and symptoms such as fever. Starting on Wednesday, health care providers were told to “use their judgment” on who should be tested.

Dr. Bruce Polsky, chairman of medicine at NYU Winthrop Hospital and an infectious disease specialist, said he couldn't speak about the patient in particular. But he said that, in general, if someone with fever, cough, muscle aches and other flu-like symptoms is tested for an array of respiratory pathogens, including the flu, and "we cannot find an explanation for the illness with that test, then we give consideration during these times that it could be a COVID-19 patient and we will consider, in collaboration with the Department of Health, whether this patent should be tested for COVID-19.”

That is especially true if the patient also is found to have pneumonia, he said.

The Nassau County man is one of five hospitalized patients statewide, Cuomo said Friday. 

Cuomo said the other 28 people with the virus are in isolation. Statewide, there are about 4,000 people in voluntary self-isolation, mostly in their homes, he said.

Meanwhile, the rabbi of the New Rochelle synagogue linked to the state’s biggest outbreak of coronavirus has the virus, the president of Yeshiva University said Friday morning.

Rabbi Reuven Fink of Young Israel of New Rochelle, who has been in self-isolation, also teaches two undergraduate classes at the Washington Heights campus of Yeshiva University, Berman said.

The university has advised his students to self-isolate as a precaution against COVID-19, Berman said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Rabbi Fink for a full and speedy recovery,” Berman said in a statement.

A New Rochelle lawyer who recently attended services, a bat mitzvah and a funeral at the temple remains hospitalized in intensive care at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center after being the second  person in the state who tested positive for the virus. The lawyer’s son, who is a student at Yeshiva University and lives on campus, has also tested positive.

The lawyer’s wife, their 14-year-old daughter who attends Riverdale SAR Academy/High School, a neighbor and a friend also have tested positive in an outbreak that has hundreds of people self-isolated in Westchester County, according to Cuomo.

Also Friday, Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said first responders, including police officers and medics, who are responding to cases of individuals that are potentially symptomatic with the coronavirus will be equipped with respiratory protection masks, gloves, eye shields and gowns. Each patient will be given a surgical mask, he said.

The Suffolk County Police Department has acquired additional "personal protective equipment" and is advising officers how and when to use it, the department said in an email.

Hospitals are taking more precautions when people with fever or other COVID-19 symptoms arrive.

Even before the man with COVID-19 arrived at NYU Winthrop, the hospital began stationing a “greeter” outside the emergency room to ask people about their health, hospital spokeswoman Anne Kazel said.

If they have a fever and a cough, or a fever and shortness of breath, "they are advised to put on a mask before they go into the ER,” she said.

The hospital is discussing whether to implement additional screening and visitor restrictions at hospital entrances, she said.

Transit systems that serve Long Island are continuing to ramp up cleaning and disinfecting processes. Suffolk Transportation Services — the private company that operates most Suffolk County Transit bus routes — plans on Tuesday to begin “a spray down of buses and an additional wipe-down of high-contact surfaces on buses with an alcohol-based wipe,” county spokesman Derek Poppe said.

In addition, bus drivers will be armed with a 3-ounce spray bottle of disinfecting solution to "use as they see fit throughout their work day,” he said.

Cuomo on Friday directed the State Police to investigate reports of thefts of surgical masks and other equipment from hospitals related to feared shortages during the coronavirus outbreak. He said there may be an organized effort to then sell the equipment.

Cuomo also said he will direct Attorney General Letitia James to investigate reports of price gouging for surgical masks and other materials.

With Robert Brodsky, Alfonso A. Castillo and Zachary R. Dowdy. 

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