New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that schools, houses of worship, and businesses in an area of New Rochelle, a city just north of New York City, will be closed for two weeks in an effort to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
One of the largest clusters of COVID-19 cases in the nation is centered in the Westchester County locale. After a lawyer who lives in New Rochelle and works in the borough of Manhattan in New York City tested positive, his family, and a neighbor who drove him to a hospital also tested positive for the illness.
Officials have since located more than 100 cases in the immediate area as of March 10, prompting them to implement what they’re calling a “containment area.”
“New Rochelle is a particular problem. It is what they call a cluster. The numbers have been going up. The numbers continue to go up. The numbers are going up unabated. And we do need a special public health strategy for New Rochelle. What we are going to do is focus on an area concentric circle around the site of the majority of the cases in New Rochelle,” Cuomo told reporters at a March 10 press conference.
Starting March 12, all facilities in the area, which measures one mile in diameter, will be closed. Schools will get a thorough cleaning, and a testing station will be set up by the state and a private health care system.
Cuomo said he knew local business owners wouldn’t be happy with the disruption.
“I get it. This can’t be a political decision. This is a public health decision,” the 62-year-old Democrat said. “It is a dramatic action, but it is the largest cluster in the country. And this is literally a matter of life and death. That’s not an overly rhetorical statement.”
National Guard soldiers will be deployed to deliver food to homes in the containment zone and help with cleaning public spaces, Cuomo said.
A day earlier, Cuomo announced the state would produce up to 100,000 gallons of hand sanitizer a week and distribute it to areas labeled the most at-risk from the virus, as well as those that have been impacted the most by the illness.
The hand sanitizer will be free, Cuomo said.
Some retailers and websites have run out of hand sanitizer as people around the country make preparations for the potential spread of the virus in their communities.
New York officials also said that if any student, teacher, or staffer at a school tests positive for COVID-19, the school would be closed for 24 hours for cleaning. Depending on the situation, the school might be closed for longer.
New York state has one of the highest case counts in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with Washington state and California.
The virus, which emerged in China late last year, has spread to over 100 countries, infecting over 100,000 people, and killing thousands. The death toll in the United States was 28 as of March 10.
There is no vaccine or proven treatment, although many have gotten better through rest and medical care.
Approximately 80 percent of patients experience mild to moderate symptoms, according to a joint study by the World Health Organization and Chinese researchers of patients in China. The other 20 percent require hospitalization, with some requiring intensive care and breathing assistance.
Experts in the United States are recommending those who are older or those with underlying health issues should avoid going out as much as possible. They should be prepared to stay in their houses for a period of time if the spread of the virus takes place in their community.
Ways to avoid contracting the illness include avoiding crowds, avoiding sick people, frequently washing hands or using hand sanitizer, and not touching one’s face with unwashed hands.
Experts also recommend regularly cleaning objects and surfaces in the home, at work, and at school.